Dyngus Day

Easter Monday. Traditionally in England, the last day of a four day jolly-off-work, in which people can no longer stand being indoors with their relatives and rush to the shops for a dose of that old-tyme retail therapy.

In Poland and some other Central European countries, it’s called Dyngus Day. It’s a commingling of Christian tradition with other, more ancient pagan rites, especially relating to fertility. Think for a minute about the eggs and rabbit imagery plastered all over our Easter celebrations. This time of year is about birth and growth – and the happy funtime activities involved in getting that process started.

Dyngus Day seems to have that idea a little mixed up, though. Traditionally, it mashes up aspects of purification and baptism – the splashing of water, scouring with reeds – with a courting ritual. Therefore, on Dyngus day, young male Poles and Czechs sneak into the bedroom of the girl they wish to wed, sling buckets of water over her, and thrash her about the legs with reeds. Often with the parents’ consent. Throughout the day, girls find themselves targets of soakings and reed-beatings. To be spared this fate labels a young woman as unmarryable or unattractive. I wish I was making this up.

Imagine trying this on someone you have your heart set on. How well do you think it would work? I’m pleased to note that in these enlightened times the practice has become co-ed, and girls will attack their paramours with equal viciousness. Somehow, though, I can’t see a bucket of water to the face and a thrashing taking over from a nice Hotel Chocolat egg any time soon. Or maybe I’m just an old softy.


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Writer. Film-maker. Cartoonist. Cook. Lover.

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