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Just Another Polish Easter Monday! Śmigus-Dyngus

Just Another Polish Easter Monday! Śmigus-Dyngus

So there you are just minding your own business on Easter Monday in downtown Krakow……..when suddenly you are hit by a sudden bout of heavy rain. No folks it’s the Great Polish Tradition of Śmigus-Dyngus .

Let Natalia tell you more if you are not familiar with this tradition.

Polish Culture is filled with many traditions, especially centred on religious holidays like Easter. Although many of them changed and evolved over time, they are still an important part of our culture. Easter time tends to be overshadowed by Christmas and is usually only associated with chocolate eggs. However, in Poland due to the Roman Catholic religion, it can be said that as much attention is paid to Easter as is to Christmas. The celebration starts with Maundy Thursday and lasts until Easter Monday (Lany Poniedzialek). Despite this being quite typical for the rest of the world as well, in Poland the Easter Monday is celebrated in a unique way, with pouring water over your friends and family or even simply those passing by.

The custom is spread across Slavic culture and is of pagan origin as the water was associated with bringing everything back to life and as a way of fighting any illness, disease or simply purifying the world. In the past t was essential or young, unmarried girls to be drenched with buckets of water as otherwise they would fear that they were unattractive and that no one would marry them! A boy, who liked a girl, often would get access to the house only by arrangement with the girl’s mother, so that he could wake the girls by pouring water over her.

Nowadays, the tradition is mostly water –orientated, without any specific purpose, except to make someone as wet as possible with girls attacking boys just as fiercely. The tradition is commercially recognised and the devices to splash people with water come in many shapes and colours. Mostly, they are in shape of small Easter eggs that you can fill with water and symbolically keep up the tradition. Therefore, as Easter Monday is associated with such activity as splashing water around, it is awaited with much anticipation by the youngest. On the other hand, it must be said that sometimes it is the adults rather than the youngsters that can be carried away by over enthusiasm with practising the tradition. Thus, it is not surprising to find the fathers, uncles, cousins –in- law etc running after each other with buckets of water. On the day, people also play tricks on each other and this may come in different forms; from hiding items belonging to your neighbour to even mildly flooding their kitchen , maybe  letting the fun get slightly out of hand!.It must be emphasised that although everyone always wishes for the sunny and warm weather, as being wet is not the problem, this of course cannot always be guaranteed. However, if it rains it is if nature itself is participating in the tradition!

Unfortunately, sometimes the custom may become dangerous when teenagers throw water from apartment blocks and the tradition takes an unwanted form. This may influence people’s views on Easter and damage this long valued and practised tradition on Easter Mondays.

However, the majority make sure there is fun without causing any serious damage or injury and any mild loss suffered and any bruises or grazes you may encounter is deemed good in preserving the practice of the tradition.

Natalia Sikora

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