By Tina Brozek
Everyone has a team, a topic or hobby that sometimes becomes an obsession. Mine is a unique holiday that Buffalo has claimed. Buffalo is the Dyngus Day capital of the world.
This age-old holiday is the Monday after Easter each year, celebrating the completion of Lent. When the pussy willows are flying and the squirt guns are spritzing, we can only hope for warmth and sunshine on April 22.
Still celebrated in Poland today, the American Dyngus Day celebrations in large Polish-populated cities have transformed into greater jubilation it seems in recent decades.
My college friend, Anna from Warsaw, Poland, gives me delightful commentary on my posted pictures annually, saying how the American Dyngus takes it to another level.
This silly, euphoric holiday began in A.D. 966 to signify cleaning, fertility and purification. It is Dyngus tradition that gentlemen toss water at the ladies and swat them with pussy willows. The following day women were allowed to throw dishes and crockery at the men. A bit of “romantic fun” in the form of some post-Lenten carousal and triumph.
My very first experience was just 12 Dyngus days ago. My Polish roots were always of interest to me, yet I still felt like a duck out of water growing up in Amherst and having parents of different nationalities.
My sister had heard about this growing local Polish celebration. That first year that we headed for the Adam Mickiewicz Library on Fillmore Avenue, in the heart of Polonia or what I knew was the East Side of the city. It has always been a great cover story to say you were heading out for the evening to go to “the library.”
We were mesmerized by the local Polka fusion band, ”Those Idiots,” morphing songs of today into a version of polka-ska-dance jams. After dancing the night away in our own version of polka and mosh pit moves, we emerged sweaty, gushing with laughter and smiling from ear to ear. Perhaps the Piwo, or Polish beer, had a hand in that, but it was the new-found cultural exploration that was thrilling too.
Throughout the years, another of our favorite stops this day is the R&L Lounge on Mills Street off Broadway, owned by the very sweet couple Ronnie and Lottie. There is nothing better than starting Dyngus Day off right with some delectable dishes straight from their authentic Polish kitchen.
Perhaps the pinnacle of the revelry for some is the now expansive parade where you can even catch some kielbasa if you are lucky. Be sure to look out for the water squirting from the parade participants high upon the sometimes makeshift and most creative floats and groups walking by as well as the other antics from the spectators.
For us, the grand finale is the party filled with polka delight, which is at the Central Terminal starting early in the evening. The terminal structure, though gray and decrepit, is nothing short of majestic this night.
So, prepare yourself for Easter and Dyngus Day by a trip to these local gems, in addition to the wonderful Broadway Market in central Polonia, to start or keep traditions alive. May you enjoy your Dyngus Day in any way you see fit. It is a day to be with friends and family, share laughter, be silly, be light and just live.
Tina Brozek, of Elma, is hoping for a warm, sunshine-filled Dyngus Day.