Pussy Willows! Polka! PARTY!!

Every time I think of pussy willows I’m reminded of the John Waters film Serial Mom and snicker to myself. I can still hear Kathleen Turner’s husky voice taunting her neighbor, “Are those pussy willows?!”

That aside, the word has additional meaning to me – apart from Serial Mom’s trashy corruption of an otherwise innocent plant. Pussy willow is also connected to the not-so-well-known, outside these parts, celebration of Dyngus Day.

For our readers who may not be familiar with Dyngus Day, it is a huge holiday here in Buffalo, rivaling even St. Patrick’s Day. It is a celebration marking the end of the Lenten season steeped in Eastern European tradition, particularly amongst Polish people.

Dyngus Day CelebrationDyngus Day (or Smigus Dyngus as it’s known in Poland) falls on Easter Monday. The day is rich in many distinct traditional rituals, some predating the adoption of Christianity, including being doused with water and swatted with pussy willow (or birch) branches. In cold, early spring. Ouch.

I’m told it’s all good fun, but even I have my reservations about getting soaked or swatted. Other less-intimidating traditions such as polka music, drinking, dancing, drinking would be more to my liking. Did I mention drinking? Enjoying pints of my first Polish beer without the threat of impending pneumonia or hypothermia sounds like a good time to me.

Traditions of water fights and switching people might seem quite odd to outsiders and first-timers such as me, but these are rites of the season and are a part of Polish culture. “Everyone’s Polish on Dyngus Day,” I’m told. That said, if I’m willing to embrace the food, the mood, the drink and the dance, I’m certainly up to taking it all in stride – wet, dry, or even lashed.

Today, Dyngus Day is a misnomer of sorts. Prior to the mid-19th century, Smigus Dyngus festivities lasted several days. Recently, Buffalo, NY has extended the celebration back to its full-week glory, hosting events throughout the city and surrounding areas, centered around fantastic foods, drink, live polka bands, games, a parade and other related fanfare.

For more information, check out Buffalo’s foremost source on all things Dyngus Day, dyngusdaybuffalo.com. There you can a wealth of information, ranging from history and traditions to a complete schedule of events. One of the highlights of the week is the Dyngus Day Kick-Off Party at the Central Terminal on March 24th. In the meantime, we here are KegWorks are ready to help you out with your own Dyngus Day celebration needs. Just tell us what you need. Sorry, we don’t sell pussy willows and unfortunately there’s a shortage this year.

If you are unable to celebrate Dyngus Day the official Buffalo way, stay home, have a cold one and rent Serial Mom.

Na zdrowie!

[techtags: DYNGUS DAY, SMIGUS DAY, EASTER MONDAY]

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