Just when you thought you knew everything weirdly fun that happens in Illinois and Wisconsin, you learn about Dyngus Day, and then you want to start celebrating too.

What is Dyngus Day?

To be fair, Dyngus Day, (also spelled Dingus Day), isn't just a Wisconsin and/or Illinois holiday. It's actually a Polish holiday that is celebrated by Polish communities on the Monday and Tuesday after Easter throughout the United States and places in Europe.

But why exactly is Dyngus Day celebrated? Here's a great explanation from dyngusday.com;

Dyngus Day celebrates the end of the often restrictive observance of lent and the joy of Easter.

Obviously, every community's Dyngus Day celebration may be done a little differently, but most of them feature lots of food, music, pussy willows, and people getting 'watered'.

Have I got you confused now?  Please allow me to explain.

Weird Dyngus Day Traditions

After reading more about Dyngus Day celebrations, I've come to believe it's a lot like a Mardi Gras celebration, minus all the boobs and beads. LOL!

Two of the quirkiest customs that come with Dyngus Day is the watering and hitting people (gently of course) with pussy willows. Since I'm not quite sure how to put into words how this works, I'll just share this explanation from Wikipedia;

The festival is traditionally celebrated by boys throwing water over girls they like. Sometimes they also strike them gently with pussy willows.  Boys would sneak into girls' homes at daybreak on Easter Monday and throw containers of water over them while they were still in bed.


Wikipedia also says that if a girl is REALLY attractive or well-liked, she may very well be doused with water several times throughout the day by several different boys. Don't worry though, the tradition allows girls to get their revenge on Tuesday, the second day after Easter.

Now that we understand Dyngus Day is kind of a bizarre mating ritual, how do pussy willow branches play a part?

Photo by Ronin on Unsplash
Photo by Ronin on Unsplash

Wikipedia says pussy willows are used in place of palm leaves during the Easter season because Poland doesn't have any palm trees. "Hitting" people with pussy willow branches on Dyngus Day is a way to protect them, and bring forth "health and good fortune".

So, there you have it. Dyngus Day might be a little quirky, but it's a beloved tradition that brings people together to celebrate good food, good music, and good times. Just don't forget your umbrella (or a change of clothes) if you're planning to participate in the water fights!

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