It’s the day after Easter, and in Western New York that means one thing: 5 more months until the Bills start losing again!

Actually, it means it’s Dyngus Day, a Polish tradition for which Buffalo has deemed itself the capital. If Mardi Gras is the pre-Lent holiday, revelers say, then Dyngus Day is the post-Lent, “Thank God it’s spring!” holiday.

Dyngus Day in Buffalo means parades, polkas, Polish sausage, pride and… pussywillows. One of the longstanding traditions of today is to slap each other silly with whips switches made from thin willow branches. Originally, back in the oldschool era of Dyngus Day, boys were supposed to sneak into the rooms of young, unmarried women as they slept, dump a bucket of water (or several) over their heads and then whip them around the legs as they were likely distracted by the need to expel liquid from their lungs. Happy Dyngus Day! Cyanosis really brings out your eyes!

In modern times, however, things don’t sound so much like something out of a torture memo. Pussywillow-whipping has become a sport for both sexes and the buckets of water have largely given way to squirt gun raids (although the Edward M. Cotter, a fireboat has been christened “The World’s Largest Dyngus Day Squirt Gun” by local Polonia, so don’t think you’re safe quite yet).

As in Mardi Gras, the Dyngus Day celebration is open to anyone — “Everybody’s Polish on Dyngus Day!” says the “Everybody’s Polish on Dyngus Day Polka” — so feel free to join in. Just make sure to tell those tourists from Salem to let the ladies up for air now and then — it’s not a test for anything.

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