Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Columns

April 20, 2014

04/20/2014 — Lee Ward: Celebrating Dyngus Day with a spanking?

ASHLAND — It’s shocking what people think of. There is a Polish holiday called Dyngus Day or, more appropriately, Wet Monday.

It is the Monday after Easter, so not only Happy Easter to everyone today, get ready for what I don’t think sounds like a fun, or even legal, activity.

On Dyngus Day in many Polish communities (also in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia), boys throw water on girls and spank them with pussy willow branches, states an entry in Wikipedia. Holidayinsights.com gives the same description of events on Dyngus Day. Holidayinsights.com calls it “a day of fun and, perhaps, a little romantic fun.”

That doesn’t sound fun or romantic to me, although, to each his or her own.

There are other rituals that go along with the splashing and spanking —  sometimes the boys dress as bears, I’m told.

Some historians say Dyngus Day dates to pagan times; the first written account of a Dyngus Day is from the 15th century.

WiseGeek.com says Dyngus Day dates to the Easter Monday 966 A.D. baptism of the Polish prince Mieszko I: “This was a significant baptism because it was taken by the Polish people to mean that all of Poland was Christian. Since baptism is thought to relate to purification, cleansing and fertility, the idea somehow adapted into Dyngus Day and boys soaking girls with water. Dyngus Day water traditions also relate to the mass Lithuanian baptisms that took place after the Lithuanian Duke, Jagiello, and the Polish Queen, Jadwiga, were married.”

Those are some pretty historically significant roots for a holiday with such a crude-sounding name and with such Spring-Break-In-Cancun-Sounding activities.

Seriously, if a man tried  to throw water on me or spank me, I’ll turn loose the pepper spray on him. Even if I knew it was supposed to be all in fun, it sounds so wrong.

In my reading, I found that traditionally, the girls get the boys back on the following day, Easter Tuesday, by pulling the same pranks of throwing water and spanking that they received the previous day. It’s also been reported the girls sometimes throw dishes or crockery at the boys. 

That led me to wonder how much free time these people have that they can continue their Easter celebrations two more days past Easter, after Easter had already been celebrated for weeks during Lent.

The biggest question, though, is how you make the leap from baptism to Dyngus Day.

LEE WARD can be reached at lward@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2661.

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