Monday, April 9, 2012

Dyngus Day for Kids (What? No Alcohol?)

Roll out the barrel...and don't forget the pussy willows and squirt guns. It's Dyngus Day! 

I was born and raised in the Buffalo, NY area, and am half Polish, so I grew up celebrating Dyngus Day (well, at least being cognizant of it). This holiday, apparently, is unknown (and bizarre-sounding) to the rest of the country (with the exception of Michigan and possibly Cleveland). I guess you could call it the Polish-American St. Patrick's Day. In Western New York, which boasts the biggest Dyngus Day celebration in the country, party-goers show off their Warsaw Falcon tattoos and drink until they puke. And you wonder: why in the world would anybody want to celebrate this with their kids? Well, in my case, the Easter season is one of the only times I celebrate my Polish heritage, which I would like to pass on to the boys.

When you get down to it, Dyngus Day, or Easter Monday, has historically been a day in Poland for the faithful to let their hair down after the solemnity and fasting of Lent and Easter weekend. In the "old country," girls traditionally chase and swat their sweethearts with pussy willows, while the boys retaliate by dumping buckets of water on the swatters.

Unfortunately, it's too cold and windy here today to celebrate properly...but here are some ideas for celebrating with preschoolers:
  • Pussy Willow Tag: (You can usually find them at a florist shop or in the floral department of the grocery store.) The child who is "It" tags the others by touching them with a pussy willow. I'd recommend playing the variation of tag in which there are multiple "Its" (each kid who is tagged gets his own pussy willow and becomes another "It") so that evryone has a pussy willow by the end of the game.
  • The Ol' Run-n-Squirt: My boys, at least, would be content simply chasing each other around the yard with squirt guns (in fact, Mommy and Daddy love to join in). Give each kid her own water gun and let 'em loose. I usually provide a big soup-pot of water for easy refills: just submerge the squirt gun until all the bubbles come to the surface.
  • Learn to Polka: Watch some basic how-to videos (here's what I found on YouTube) and dance with the kids. Or, something I think would be more fun, would be to cut out some paper footprints and tape them to the floor/ground and let the children try to do the steps in order (you could write numbers on the footprints). Check out this Web page for a Polka tutorial complete with footprints.
  • Music: As far as what to Polka to, there's actually a song about Dyngus Day (buy the "Everybody's Polish on Dyngus Day" mp3 or search for other polkas). If polka music is just too crazy for your taste, play some Chopin. He was Polish.
More playdate ideas to come. MiƂego dnia!

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