Happy Dyngus Day

Everyone is Polish on lany poniedzialek

Above, Nolan Potter sits on his great-grandma’s lap. He holds pussy willows and wears a chicken hat, but he’s not exactly sure he wants to learn the “birdie dance.”

Buffalo, New York is the self-proclaimed “Dyngus Day Capital of the World,” but Monday, Dunkirk’s Kosciuszko Club threw a party to rival it. Dyngus Day, also known as Smigus-Dyngus or lany poniedzialek (Wet Monday), is a Polish holiday celebrated the day after Easter.

Traditionally, young men threw water over young women and switched them with pussy willows. On Tuesday, the young women got their revenge by doing this to the young men. Nowadays, Monday is an equal opportunity day for dousing.

Dyngus Day is celebrated in many areas where Polish people settled. That includes Dunkirk. However, it isn’t only those of Polish ancestry who look forward to Dyngus Day. Through the years, there have been marriages between people of Polish ancestry and other ethnic groups. For example, Marilyn Nalepa, the widow of Martin Nalepa, is of Luxembourgish descent. Tom Arcarese’s wife Kelly is a Budniewski from home. Tom and Marilyn both wore shirts saying “Everyone is Polish on Dyngus Day.”

Neither Linda nor Al Liedke is Polish, but both come to celebrate the day. Linda said, “My husband is German.” Linda has an Italian background.

According to a participant who will turn 102 soon but declined to give her name, “The crowd (at the Kosciuszko Club) is bigger this year than last.”

For certain, this was a good year for squirt guns. Many members of the Tarnowski family came armed and ready for action as did Mike Nalepa, who tried to pass himself off as Tom Tarnowski. Not to say that Tom was innocent; he too had a squirt gun.

Mr. Dyngus Day’s arrival was announced by a member of the Bob Uleck Polka Band from Wattsburg, Pennsylvania. Bruce Tarnowski has been playing Mr. Dyngus Day since 2010, succeeding his dad, the late Chet Tarnowski. Bruce makes his rounds in the Dunkirk area during the day and then he and his entourage end the day at the Kosciuszko Club.

Bruce circulated among the partiers at the club, and gently tapped the ladies with his bunch of pussy willows. And, gentleman that he is, he allowed the ladies to use his squirt gun to get him wet.

The kitchen did a brisk business as people lined up for the food. Some chose Polish platters consisting of pierogi, golabki, kielbasa, rye bread with butter, and mashed potatoes with gravy. It was also possible to purchase servings of just some of the items as well as czanina, a soup made from duck’s blood and containing duck meat, raisins, prunes and noodles. (I grew up eating this, always liked it, and look forward to being able to have it.) A Polish beer, Tyskie, was available. For those who weren’t so committed to Polish cuisine, chicken fingers were available.

The T-shirts are fun to read. Katie Tarnowski’s mentioned many of the good things about Polish culture–pierogi, golabki, kapusta, placek–all food. Others wore shirts saying “dij mi buzi” which means “kiss me” in Polish, Polish Princess or “You bet your dupa I’m Polish.”

Dyngus Day is music, food, and fun. And you’re welcome to join in because everyone is Polish on Dyngus Day, if he or she wants to be.