Happy Dyngus Day | Let the leg whippings commence!

Old Polish drawing of a Dyngus Day ritual where two young ladies are preparing to rouse a man with a bucket of water. It's an ancient fertility rite.

Two young ladies looking to prepare a fertile sod on Dyngus Day. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Dyngus Day is a big deal for the Polish, Slovak and Czech people. Also known as Easter Monday or Wet Monday (Śmigus-Dyngus or lany poniedziałek in Polish; velikonoční pondělí or pomlázka in Czech; or Šibačka/Polievačka or Oblievačka in Slovak), Dyngus Day is essentially a celebration of the end of Lent. But the real reason Dyngus Day is so important is that traditionally, boys wake up unmarried girls in the early morning by pouring a bucket of water on them. They also whip their legs with long, thin decorated tree branches, a nod to pagan antiquity that is the Śmigus part of Dyngus Day ritual. Modern times have seen the branches replaced with polka, Polish food, water gun fights and other things that don’t cause leg welts. Thankfully, Dyngus Day has steered away from Wicker Man territory. Payday loans won’t save from that type of heated situation.

Dyngus Day – Why “Dyngus” and “Śmigus?”

According to Wikipedia, Dyngus (from din gus – thin soup or dingen – nature) is a pagan god of water and moist earth. His twin, Śmigus (from śmigać, to make a whooshing sound) represents thunder and lightning. Pouring water was an ancient spring cleansing rite, and also indicative of fertility. Hence, boys pour water on girls. The striking with tree branches element comes from either some form of flagellant purification or was borrowed from the ritual slapping of Christian Confirmation. Śmigus , which tends to be forgotten, also features striking prominently, but this time it’s the parents striking children on Good Friday while praying about “God’s wounds,” Boże rany in Polish. Of course, we have unsecured loans to help pay to dress our wounds and keep the ashes out. In modern times, celebrating the twin Śmigus aspect of Dyngus Day gave girls equal permission to chase boys with the switch.

Other Dyngus Day customs

Exchanging decorated eggs (pisanka)is also big. If you don’t have your fertility symbols, you get doused by Dyngus and struck by Śmigus. In areas of Poland like Mazuria and Masovia, there is a related Dyngus Day custom of sprinkling ashes on people and their homes for consecration and cleansing for the upcoming year. This is referred to as półpoście, but it is done a few weeks before Dyngus Day.

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