Holiday History: What is Dyngus Day?

A Dyngus Day celebration in Warsaw, Poland.
A Dyngus Day celebration in Warsaw, Poland.

Happy Dyngus Day!

Dyngus Day is an old central European holiday, mostly connected to Poland, celebrated on the day after Easter. In the United States, it may be a reason (or an excuse) to drink beer and eat kielbasa early on a Monday morning once a year.

Depending on when elections occur, it is also a day politicians use to campaign and meet the public in a convivial atmosphere.

Mardi Gras and Carnival fall right before the start of Lent, the 40-day period when many people give up their indulgences until Easter. Dyngus Day is a bookend to that, when you return to your indulgences.

Lent is a time of reflection and repentance, so people give things up to sharpen their focus. Traditionally, that often meant giving up alcohol or types of food. Now, many give up other things that take time and distract, such as social media. In essence, they fast.

Fasting is observed and promoted in many faiths around the world. You may not associate Christianity with fasting, but in Matthew Chapter 6, Jesus says “when” you fast, not “if” you fast.

Dyngus Day is celebrated in many, but not all, cities with large populations of Polish heritage. It has been most associated with Buffalo, New York, and South Bend, Indiana, but has spread elsewhere. In Cleveland, Ohio, a Miss Dyngus is named.

There have even been Dyngus Day events here in Florida, in the Tampa area. One is scheduled this year in Brandon.

South Bend is where the holiday is most connected to politicians, both local and national. Robert Kennedy campaigned for president there in 1968. In 2008, when Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were seeking the Democratic nomination for President, both campaigned at Dyngus Day festivities in the run-up to Indiana’s primary elections.

As with St. Patrick’s Day, when people seemingly “become” Irish, they will “become” Polish for Dyngus Day.

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