Dyngus (Dingus) Day Is Alive and Well in Buffalo NY

Updated on August 29, 2019
Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie has been an online writer for eight years. Her articles focus on everything from RVing to rock collecting.

The red and white colors of the Flag of Poland are prominent features of Dyngus Day.
The red and white colors of the Flag of Poland are prominent features of Dyngus Day. | Source

Dyngus Day—A Polish Celebration in Buffalo NY

In many parts of the U.S., Dyngus Day, a Polish holiday celebrated on Easter Monday, is unknown. In fact, despite my Polish heritage, I had never heard of Dyngus Day until I made friends with Irene, a woman from Buffalo, New York whose family enjoyed celebrating this old Polish tradition with the large Polish-American population of Buffalo.

What Is Dyngus Day?

Dyngus Day, also called Wet Monday, was mostly celebrated in Eastern European countries, Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia. One of the traditions of Dyngus Day is that boys will waken young girls by splashing water on her. They would also use birch twigs to switch the legs of the girls. This prank was originally a joke that any boys would play on girls; later the focus was more of a courting ritual. Young unmarried girls were wakened when a young man would sneak into her bedroom to douse her with water. Parents of the girl were usually privy to the trick, and most girls were secretly hoping to be the object of this attention.

The Polish Coat of Arms
The Polish Coat of Arms | Source

Smigus Dyngus

Another tradition of Dyngus Day is the Smigus, or gently switching legs with birch or pussy willow branches. Originally, boys would use the tips of the branches to switch the legs of girls they liked.

The tradition of throwing water and switching with pussy willows has evolved to be a more generalized prank, and in towns like Buffalo, New York in the U.S. where Dyngus Day is celebrated, anyone is fair game to be the target of a bucket of water or to be switched with pussy willow twigs. It is still somewhat of a courting ritual (remember Mom saying, “he wouldn’t tease you, if he didn’t like you?”) and a fun time for young men and women to flirt with each other. Rumor has it that more than one match has been made during Dyngus Day's fun, food, beer and music!

Smigus Dyngus—What Does It Mean?

According to the Buffalo’s Official Dyngus Day Website, Smigus Dyngus ( shming-oos-ding-oos). Smigus comes from the word “smigac” meaning swish with a cane, leading to the custom of swishing girls lightly with birch or pussy willow branches.

“Dingus” is thought to be from the medieval “dingnus” meaning “worthy, proper or suitable.” Another meaning of the word is “ransom during war.” This led to the custom of the girls giving the boys a decorated Easter Egg to protect themselves from being doused with water.

Video of Dyngus Day Festival in Buffalo, New York

While Easter Monday is no longer a public holiday in most places in the U.S., there are some cities with Polish American populations that observe traditional Easter Monday as Dingus Day. The Polish- American tradition celebrates Dyngus Day as the end of Lent and beginning of the joys of Easter.

Buffalo, New York, my friend’s hometown, has the world’s largest Dingus Day celebration which includes food, songs, polkas and, of course, splashing water and gently switching legs with pussy willow branches. Easter Monday celebrations are a way to celebrate Polish American culture, tradition and heritage.

Dyngus Day—A Day of Practical Jokes in One Family

The websites for Buffalo’s Dyngus Day celebrations focus on food, parades and a little bit of history. My friend Irene told me that in her Polish-American family, Dyngus Day was celebrated like April Fools Day as her brothers played pranks on each other that grew more elaborate each year. The pranks grew from prank phone calls to placing fake orders for goods to be charged to each other into full blown silliness. One year, her older brother ordered a dump truck full of mulch to be delivered to his younger brother’s driveway at 7 am. The driver was told to dump it in front of the garage, don’t bother anyone in the house. The only problem came when the younger brother tried to back out of his garage to go to work only to find his car blocked in by a ton of mulch. Not to be outdone, the younger brother called a local dairy farm and ordered a truckload of “organic” fertilizer to be delivered to his brother’s front lawn…

Dyngus Day in Buffalo—Largest Polish-American Celebration

Dyngus Day in Buffalo has grown to be the largest Polish-American celebration of its kind. It has been compared to a backward Mardi Gras. While Mardi Gras is a last fling celebration before Lent begins, Dyngus Day is the celebration of the end of Lent, the beginning of the courting season and the beginning of spring. I think Polish Americans have discovered a better celebration, as theirs can go on for several days following Easter. Apparently, most celebrants not only consider Easter Monday a holiday, but plan to take off Tuesday off from work, too…

Dyngus Day Poll

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Everybody's Polish on Dyngus Day!

Well, the saying in Buffalo goes, “Everybody’s Polish on Dyngus Day!” Actually, observance of Dyngus Day has mostly died out in Poland and other Eastern European countries, and it has become an American-Polish celebration. But in Buffalo, New York and a few other cities in the U.S., you can find a day-long party of parades, Polish foods, polka, dancing, and fun.


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    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      5 years ago from USA

      Mary615 - It does seem to be rather a localized custom, Mary. In Florida you might be considered odd, to say the least, to wish people a "Happy Dyngus Day." :)

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      5 years ago from Florida

      I never heard of Dyngus Day. I'll have to remember to wish people I see to wish them a Happy Dyngus Day! They will think I have finally lost my marbles!

      Sure sounds like fun, though.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      5 years ago from USA

      Sunshine625- It does sound like fun, except for the fact that it can be pretty cold in Buffalo at Easter time. Maybe they can splash a little warm water?

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I never heard of Dyngus Day until now...sure sounds like fun, with the exception of having water splashed on me! I was hoping Paula read this hub because she lives near Buffalo and I see that she did...two years ago! :)

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      5 years ago from USA

      poetryman6969 - LOL, I don't even want to speculate on what you thought the meaning was! But Dyngus Day is a real celebration in Buffalo and some other cities in both the US and Europe.

    • poetryman6969 profile image


      5 years ago

      Id did not know that a dingus was a real thing. I thought a dingus was a term referring to politicians and farm animals.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      5 years ago from USA

      Tillsontitan - Glad you enjoyed learning about this unique celebrations, and thanks so much for your comments!

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      5 years ago from USA

      pstrauble48 - Even though I'm of Polish heritage, I had never heard of Dyngus day until a friend from Buffalo told me about it years ago. I does sound like a fun time! Thanks for stopping in to comment and for the share!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      5 years ago from New York

      Isn't it amazing how many great ethnic holidays are celebrated in the US. Of course the problem is, we don't know about most of them. Thanks for sharing this one.

      Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      5 years ago from North Central Florida

      This is totally new to me. I am learning so much this morning while reading about celebrations and holidays. It is good to know that traditions such as these are being kept alive and passed from one generation to the next.

      Voted up++++ shared and pinned to Awesome HubPages.

      Angels are on the way to you this afternoon ps

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      8 years ago from USA

      Donnah75 - I'd love to hear what your husband has to say about Dyngus Day, and if and how it is celebrated in the part of Poland he comes from. Thanks for visiting and for your comments!

    • donnah75 profile image

      Donna Hilbrandt 

      8 years ago from Upstate New York

      What a great article! I am going to share this with my husband later today. He is a Polish immigrant. Thanks for sharing.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      8 years ago from USA

      Hello Kasiapl - Smingus Dyngus Day sounds like it would be a lot of fun for the younger set! It's not widely known in the U.S., though some cities, like Buffalo NY, with large Polish American populations do celebrate it as a fun event. Thanks for dropping by to share your memories!

    • kasiapl profile image


      8 years ago from New Jersey , USA

      Yea I remember this from when I was younger and living in Poland. Hehe it was fun we used to have little water guns in different shapes. Here they don't really know about Smingus Dyngus day it was fun hehe.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      8 years ago from USA

      Hi Kashmir - Dyngus Day does sound like fun, doesn't it? Sounds like a great community event!

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 

      8 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Stephanie,i never heard of Dyngus Day either but thanks for the interesting information on it, it sounds like fun.

      Vote up and more !!!

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      8 years ago from USA

      Hi Bob,

      Well, there's always next Dyngus Day...but you'd better warn your Polish neighbor lady before you go sneaking into her bedroom to dump a pail of water on her. That could finish her off! Oh, and thanks a lot for enlightening me on the slang meaning of "dingus." I would have been perfectly happy remaining in the dark...

    • diogenes profile image


      8 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Great article, Steph. You're a kinky bunch, aren't you. I'll have to nip over to Poland (Polish girls are lovely).

      By the way, "dingus" is also slang word for the male organ among a select bunch.

      I wish I'd read this on Sunday. I have a little old Polish lady as a neighbor and would have played the water trick on her...probably finished her off, she is about 90!


    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      8 years ago from USA

      Fpherj - How fun it must have been to grow up in a community as fun loving as Dunkirk, and be a part of the Dyngus Day celebration. As they say, "Everybody's Polish on Dyngus Day!" Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      8 years ago from USA

      Hi Pamela,

      Glad you enjoyed the article on Dyngus Day! It definitely sounds like a fun celebration for anyone who attends.

    • fpherj48 profile image


      8 years ago from Carson City

      About 50 miles southwest of the city of Buffalo, is the city of Dunkirk in Chautauqua County. This city has a history of being approximately 75% Polish. Dyngus Day Celebrations don't get much more festive and BIG than in this community!! I have been aware of this special day for the Poles, ever since childhood.

      Although I have no Polish ancestry, I do have many friends who take part in Dyngus Day....the food, the music and dancng and the fun! I have celebrated with them.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Stephanie, This is a very interesting article as Dyngas day is new to me. It sounds great. I would love to attend the celebration.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      8 years ago from USA

      Sunforged - I'm so jealous! I've heard much about the parties, but never attended - they sound like such fun!

    • sunforged profile image


      8 years ago from Sunforged.com

      I used to attend the Buffalo, Dyngus Day Parties! It was an awesome time, even better than ST. Pats, if only because it was tad bit warmer outside!

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      8 years ago from USA


      Happy Dyngus Day! Put on the Polish Polka Music and let's celebrate! :)

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      8 years ago from USA

      Hi Marcy,

      Doesn't it sound like fun? I may have to plan a trip to Buffalo next Easter Season to take part in the Dyngus Day festivities!

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      8 years ago from USA

      Sally's Trove - Unfortunately, I learned about Dyngus Day after my grandparents had passed away, but I would have loved to hear what they had to say about it! There's nothing I love more than Polish food and music!

    • homesteadbound profile image

      Cindy Murdoch 

      8 years ago from Texas

      Very interesting! I've never heard of this holiday either. Happy Dingus Day!

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      8 years ago from USA

      Hi Jools,

      From what I understand, Dyngus Day is celebrated more in the U.S. than in Poland, but it does sound like fun! I think that the switching is just a gentle tap - or supposed to be, anyway. Sort of a love tap! :)

    • Sally's Trove profile image


      8 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      Hoho! I didn't know about Dyngus Day either, and I kind of wonder why not, especially since the tradition originated in Eastern Europe. I'll have to ask my family about this. Meanwhile, now I can tell the story of how I learned about Dyngus Day from Stephanie Henkel. :) Up and interesting.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 

      8 years ago from Planet Earth

      Now that's my idea of a fun way to start the season! I've never heard of this one; I may need to go to Buffalo to see it sometime. Happy Dingus Day! Sharing this one!

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools Hogg 

      8 years ago from North-East UK

      Interesting hub Stephanie. I think this definitely sounds like a sort of post-Lent celebration which has distinct historical precedence and it is nice that your ancestors brought it over and that it is still practised now. Not sure how I'd feel about getting switched with birch twigs though. Voted up and shared!


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