It was the morning after Easter and all of the children were snuggled in their beds. There was no school because it was spring break and this was back in the time when students still had a spring break. Each child had a crotched Easter bunny stuffed animal crooked deep inside his or her arm. One Easter bunny fell to the floor and was seriously debating making a hop for it; his child forgot to brush his teeth last night and he had bits of peanuts and eggs stuck to his teeth. The children were dreaming about their jelly beans dancing in their Easter baskets and how thankful they were they didn’t have to wear those itchy matching Easter outfits again.

One little boy woke up from his jelly bean dream. He looked on the floor and his stuffed bunny knew he was caught. The bunny remained faced down on the floor hoping the little boy would forget all about him. The boy moved cautiously in his bed but no one heard his movements. Should he have gotten out of bed? His sister Hanna was still snoring and his brother Justin had his arm hanging off the bed which meant he was deep in his slumbers. They had no idea what today was and he could get them first. What about Marek’s parents? Were Olga and Otto up yet? Could this have been the year little Marek got everyone first?

Marek crept out of bed and looked at his siblings. They were still dreaming about playing “cracksese” from yesterday. In all of the Kowalski’s family history no one, not even Otto, could have beaten Marek in the game of cracking each other’s dyed eggs. It was the same every year; Marek had three dozen of his siblings cracked eggs and his dozen of dyed eggs were hardly touched. The real trick was to show only a small bit of the egg, dye it a dark color, and use the butt of the egg.

As Marek made his way to the bathroom, he stopped by his parent’s room. With his ear to the door he listened for sound or movement. When none came, he slowly made his way to the bathroom avoiding the spot in the carpet that creaked like a dying circus clown. It was too easy! Marek could have snuck into the bathroom, grabbed the green cup with the dried toothpaste, filled it with water and then performed the champ’s duty. Marek turned his head to the left and then the right. He watched the family dog Bernard sashay by him. Why didn’t Bernard wag his tail and bug Marek to let him outside? Marek’s parents were awake and waiting for him.

The bathroom was out of the question now. Marek wondered if any of his siblings left a glass of water by his or her bed. Hanna was normally the thirsty child who begged for a glass of water just as everyone else was settled into his or her bed. Did she ask last night? She must have asked because she ate her whole entire pop corn bunny from her Easter basket and then ate Justin’s from his basket when he was outside looking for more hidden plastic eggs.

There was no choice; Marek had to go back to the room they all shared. He was so focused on making it back to the room, he forgot to side step the dying clown. Marek put his tiny size four feet on the carpet and the clown moaned. His parents would have known where he was in the house so he had to act fast. He ran down the staircase and flew into the living room. He hid between the couch and the wall. Out of breathe and panicked, Marek waited for the pounding in his head to subside so he could make a new plan.

Olga and Otto were indeed up. They knew their children well enough to have guessed Marek, their oldest at age ten, would have tried to outsmart the house. Otto already won the battle between himself and his wife and now she was just bidding her time until tomorrow. At least he skipped hitting her in the leg this year. Truth be told, she hid all the pussywillows from Otto in the kitchen cupboard.

“Where do you think our little child is hiding?” Otto asked as he looked at his wife. She answered with a point of her finger toward the couch Marek always used as his hiding spot. “Do we get him or the others?” Otto asked again and his wife pointed up to the ceiling.

Otto and Olga moved fluidly by their son’s hiding spot. As they approached the stairs, Olga turned back to see if Marek was peeking out from his spot. He was and she pretended not to notice him as she placed her hand on her husband’s back to propel him forward.

“They didn’t see me?” Marek said to the floor. He wasn’t sure how that was possible but he didn’t care. It was time to make his way to the kitchen and get his weapon; a glass of water. Marek knew his dad was the champ, but if he just avoided his father, he could become the victor and overtake his father. It was possible.

There were screams and giggles from upstairs. The war cry was shouted as Hanna and Justin fell under Otto’s capture. It was only a matter of time before they joined forces to get Marek. He had to think and plan. He chose to hide outside in the tree house. Impractical yes, but it gave him the vantage point he needed.

Bernard followed him outside. He had no idea the dog was following him at all and Marek was afraid the dog would give up his position. It was all too late because the family was running out of the screen door right on Marek’s heel. He ran into the juniper bushes and waited. Some of the water spilled from the glass but he still had enough to wet his fingers and dethrone his father. Marek watched as his mother and sister both smacked Otto with the pussywillows proving Otto was the champ. Before he could wonder where Justin was, he heard the bushes crunch next to him. His brother looked him in the eye and raised his wet finger.

“Dyngus, dyngus!” Justin flicked water into Marek’s face. It was Justin who was the king of Dyngus day because he avoided getting “christened” in the face and was able to flick water in Otto’s face before his dad could get Justin.

There ends another Polish American Family celebrating Dyngus day.

Dyngus day was associated with the baptismal of Prince Mieszko I and his court. In 966 AD, the court and Poland’s first King were all baptized on Easter Monday bringing all the Polish people into the world of Christianity. The sprinkling of the water represents the purification and cleansing of the new religion and the washing away of the old, pagan vitures. However, as time marched on, the tradition of Dyngus day morphed into a farming tradition. A Young farm boy would be smitten with a young lass. In order to tell the young woman of the man’s intentions, he would throw water on her. Some of the more brazen males would use cologne as a more permanent way to mark their territory. Then the boys grabbed a twig or a pussywillow branch and chased the girls in order to slap them on their legs. The girls had the option of retaliation. The girls grabbed plates and cups and threw them at the boys. Then on Tuesday, the girls were able to throw water or cologne on the boys.

Today Dyngus day is still celebrated. Buffalo, New York is renowned for being the official place to celebrate the holiday. It starts around mid-morning with a brunch of traditional Easter Polish food ranging from ham to kielbasa. While everyone is mingling around the food, polka music is played to help the participants get more in the mood. As the day progresses, there is more dancing and eating.

Dyngus day has lost some of its religious roots but still clings to its matchmaking ones. During the festival, many men will carry the traditional pussywillow flower and playful hit an attractive girl with it. Although water is still sprinkled on the aspiring couple, there are no massive amounts of water being tossed at people. It is just a light sprinkle and a playful tap with the flower.

Advertisements