Columns

Finding the true meaning of Dyngus

Sightseeing is thirsty business. After exploring the Christmas Story House and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland last month, we stopped for refreshment at the Tremont Tap House.

Our friendly server asked where we were from and when I said Washington, she asked, “The one by Canada?”

Once we were clear on geography and had our beverages, she asked if we’d be in Cleveland for Dyngus Day.

Now, when I was a kid “dingus” was synonymous with dingbat, dumbbell, doofus, and other not so nice words. Who knew there was a special day set aside to celebrate the dim bulbs among us?

Our waitress quickly disabused me of that notion.

“Dyngus Day is also called Wet Monday,” she explained. “It’s the day after Easter. There’s a parade and polkas and pierogis.”

She grabbed a guidebook off the counter.

“You can read all about it,” she said. “It’s a hoot. We throw water on each other and hit people with pussy willow branches.”

I love a good polka as much as anyone, but having water thrown on me, and being smacked by shrubbery isn’t what I consider a “hoot.”

Alas, I didn’t have opportunity to experience the delight of Dyngus because we flew home just before the holiday.

My curiosity was piqued, though, so this weekend I sat down and perused the booklet describing Cleveland’s biggest polka party. And then I delved deeper into the Dyngus.

First of all we were wrong to use the word as a childhood slur because loosely translated it actually means worthy, proper or suitable.

Historically a Polish tradition, Dyngus Day celebrates the end of the observance of Lent and the joy of Easter. It dates back to the baptism of Prince Mieszko I on Easter Monday in 966 A.D. The water symbolized purification, hence “Wet Monday.”

Cleveland is just one of many cities throughout the U.S. that hosts parties and parades in honor of Easter Monday. The largest celebration is in Buffalo, New York, where a local paper once proclaimed, “Everybody is Polish on Dyngus Day!”

Traditions abound, including wearing red and white, the colors of the Polish flag. But perhaps the most well-known Dyngus Day tradition is that in which single boys try to splash water on single girls as an expression of interest. Rooting from the baptism of the prince, the water represents cleansing, purification and fertility.

Men and women can also flirt with pussy willows, which are among the first plants to bud in the spring. The young men may lightly hit women on their legs to show they are interested.

That’s why my Cleveland guide lists the following as Dyngus Day essential items; pussy willows, squirt guns and polka pants.

Apparently, squirt gun fights and pussy willow whacks add up to a really good time.

Not everyone has been a fan of the celebration. The Bishop of Pozan’ tried to derail Dyngus Day in 1410. He forbade it, instructing residents not to “pester or plague others in what is universally called Dingus.”

Obviously, the prohibition didn’t stick. Probably because other activities include sampling Polish foods like pierogis, kielbasa and stuffed cabbage and drinking pints of piwo (beer).

Polka music is the heart and soul of the party, which means roving accordion bands and plenty of room for dancing.

In Cleveland the celebration culminates with the crowning of Miss Dyngus Day, followed by a parade featuring the “Frankie Yankovic accordion head float.”

I cannot believe we missed an ACCORDION HEAD FLOAT.

Which leaves me to wonder if Spokane has a large enough Polish community to pull of our own party and parade?

In any case, I’ve already planned our next trip to Ohio. I’m practicing my polka because we’ll be back on April 29, 2019 – Dyngus Day.

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.

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Columns

Lessons From the Bowl

Like most Seahawks fans we rooted hard for the Atlanta Falcons during the Super Bowl on Sunday. Birds of a feather flocking together, united in Tom Brady disdain.

Well, we all know how that turned out.

But in between kickoff and that stunning win by the New England Patriots we had a lot of fun watching the game with my brother David and his wife, Becky. We all enjoy football and are pretty much experts on the game.

Our son Alex was a record-setting kicker for the Mt. Spokane Wildcats, and David played defensive tackle for the Anderson Air Force Base Vikings in Guam. Obviously, we’re well-qualified to loudly shout play calls at the television. Our commentary is usually spot-on, too, though Derek did get himself in a bit of trouble.

As the game began he opined of the Patriots, “Once you’ve been to the Super Bowl so many times it’s not a big deal; kinda like being married 30 years.”

Sadly, I’d left my yellow flag at home and couldn’t call the foul.

But when I posted his comment on Facebook, friends took care of that for me. One commented, “Dude. Either stop drinking or stop talking.”

Another asked, “Have the flowers been delivered yet?”

Thankfully, we were distracted by the latest round of Super Bowl commercials. Many of the ads were positively perplexing, like the artsy ad for something called LIFE WTR.

“What on earth is Life Wtr?” I asked.

“It’s water with the vowels strained out,” my brother replied.

Then there was the 84 Lumber advertisement. I thought it was lovely and moving, but like many I didn’t have a clue what the ad was supposed to sell. Maybe compelling political statements are the new Budweiser frogs.

I missed some commercials due to using the break for what God intended commercials for, but I did see the adorable NFL Super Bowl Babies and the Melissa McCarthy Kia ad was hysterical. Also, I’m sure I’m not the only woman in America who has watched the Mr. Clean ad more than a dozen times.

However, we were all puzzled as to why Terry Bradshaw has to remove his pants to get a stain off his shirt and agreed that Spuds MacKenzie should have been left to rest in peace.

“How can he hold a beer can if he can’t open it because he doesn’t have thumbs?” Derek asked.

None of us had the answer.

Snacks are a big part of Super Bowl fun and Becky’s homemade pizzas were delicious. Alas, the Oregon-made amber I purchased for Derek was not. Apparently, it tasted like pine trees. Or turpentine. What can I say? I’m not a beer drinker. Anyway, it didn’t hiss forever like the Busch beer in the Super Bowl ad.

At least this year’s halftime show didn’t leave a bad taste in our mouths. Though none of us are huge Lady Gaga fans, at least her clothes stayed on and we could understand her lyrics.

When the game resumed we witnessed an epic moment when Patriot Martellus Bennett and Falcon Dwight Freeney got their helmets stuck together like two mountain goats locking horns. Talk about an awkward dance.

Speaking of dancing, upon the advice of friends I spent considerable time Sunday morning practicing the Dirty Bird – the Falcons celebratory touchdown dance. I didn’t practice this at church, which I’m sure my pastor appreciated, but had planned to break it out as the confetti fell on the Falcon’s victory.

We were so sure of this victory that David opined Brady was a shoe-in for MVP – for the Atlanta Falcons.

I replied, “I’m sure Tom Brady’s balls are pretty deflated right about now.”

Of course those words came back to haunt us, just like Tom Brady came back to rally his team to an amazing, unprecedented, overtime victory.

It was like watching Lucy pulling the football out from Charlie Brown. The only comfort was that at least it wasn’t the Seahawks sitting dejectedly on the sidelines.

I’ve always found the Super Bowl to be educational and I learned several valuable lessons on Sunday.

No. 1: Don’t send a wine-drinker to buy beer.

No. 2: Men who mop are super sexy, even if they aren’t named Mr. Clean.

No. 3 And never, ever count Tom Brady out.

 

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.