Easter Monday: White House hosts egg roll, Buffalo hosts Dyngus Day

Two boys roll eggs on green lawn with other children, White House and blue sky in background

This year, the First Family will host the 137th annual White House Easter Egg Roll. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

MONDAY, APRIL 6: Roll those leftover Easter eggs and bring the leftovers from your holiday dinner out of the ‘fridge, because Easter Monday is a holiday in several countries of the world. The second day of the octave of Easter Week, Easter Monday condenses what used to be an entire week of celebrations into a single day.

Activities are abundant on Easter Monday: At the White House in Washington, D.C., the First Family hosts the annual Easter Egg Roll; in Australia, Easter Monday is a public holiday and Sydney hosts a famous parade; in the UK, a plethora of events—such as the Cadbury Easter Egg Trail—are offered; and in Poland and New York, Dyngus Day festivities charge up old-fashioned customs. In the Republic of Ireland, citizens remember the men and women who died in the Easter Rising, which began on Easter Monday of 1916.

137TH WHITE HOUSE EASTER EGG ROLL

This year, the Obama family will host the 137th annual White House Easter Egg Roll, with the theme “Gimme Five,” in honor of the fifth anniversary of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative. Upward of 35,000 guests will participate in the egg roll and egg hunt, sport and fitness zones, storytelling and cooking demos. (View the official 2015 Obama family Easter photo, here.) The 2015 White House Keepsake Eggs will feature, along with the stamped signatures of the President and First Lady, the “paw prints” of Bo and Sunny. In addition, this year, Live with Kelly and Michael will present its first full, live broadcast from the White House, airing live from the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden outside the East Wing of the White House.

DYNGUS DAY:
A BELOVED POLISH TRADITION

In Poland, Central Europe and in Polish communities worldwide, customs related to Dyngus Day are more popular than ever. From the Polish Smigus-Dyngus (Wet Monday), Easter Monday has long been reserved for dousing girls with water and swatting them with pussy willows; the following day, girls have their revenge on the boys. (Wikipedia has details.) The world’s largest organized Dyngus Day celebration takes place each year in Buffalo, New York, where attendees dress in red and white—the colors of the Polish flag—and watch the famous parade. (Check out the official site.) This year, tens of thousands are expected in Buffalo to dance to the music of polka bands, eat Polish food and toast one another in Polish-owned bars. Activities also flourish in Chicago, Cleveland, Hamtramck, Michigan and South Bend, Indiana.

Easter Monday: From Buffalo to Poland, Dyngus Day customs reign strong

Close-up of two white pussy willow buds on branch with green background

Pussy willow branches have long been a part of Easter Monday in Poland. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

MONDAY, APRIL 21: If Easter Sunday is joyous, Easter Monday is ludicrous—replete with pussy willow swatting, water dousing and general chaos! From Buffalo, New York, to South Bend, Indiana, and across the ocean in Poland, Slovakia and Hungary, springtime rituals and audacious flirting are part of this centuries-old tradition, also known as Dyngus Day.

Not all Easter Monday customs are as silly, of course—the White House annually hosts a formal Easter Egg Roll for American children, while citizens of Germany, Australia and Egypt also take their festivities outside for picnics, outdoor sporting events and egg rolls. (Wikipedia has details.)

The origins of Dyngus Day are not fully documented. Some date customs to earlier, pagan centuries—but the story goes that pussy willows got their start in Polish Easter traditions as a substitute for the palms of Palm Sunday, which were unavailable in Poland. After being blessed by a priest, the native pussy willow branches were regarded as protective—as stewards of good fortune and health. By swallowing three pussy willow buds on Palm Sunday, the consumer believed himself to be endowed with good health. On Easter Monday in Poland, boys customarily swatted girls with pussy willow branches, and the girls returned the favor the following day. Today, however, you’re more likely to see boys and girls dousing one another with water on Easter Monday. What used to be a week of relaxing, secular activities during the seven days following Easter Sunday was reduced to one day—Easter Monday—in the 19th century.

President Barack Obama stands with book in his hand, smiling, with First Lady sitting to his left and two daughters sitting on stairs in front, all outdoors

The Obamas prepare to read “Where the Wild Things Are” at the White House Easter Egg Roll, 2011. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

BUFFALO:
HISTORIC DYNGUS PARTY

Polish communities worldwide recognize Dyngus Day, but nowhere is the party bigger than in Buffalo, New York. (Get all the details at DyngusDay.com.) Parades, authentic food and pussy willow branches fill the streets, while nationally renowned polka bands play the day’s accompaniment. What started in the 1960s with a few neighborhoods of Polish-American citizens has now morphed into the Dyngus Day festivities that last an entire week and draw upward of 50,000 attendees. Other notable events take place in Chicago, Cleveland and South Bend, Indiana.

IN THE NEWS:
DIGITAL POLISH ARCHIVES
136TH WHITE HOUSE EGG ROLL

An estimated 30,000 people are expected at this year’s White House Easter Egg Roll, which will be celebrating its 136th year in 2014. (For more, visit WhiteHouse.gov.) In accordance with the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative, the event’s live music, sports, cooking station and egg rolling will be themed: “Hope into Healthy, Swing into Shape.” The event can be watched live here.

Just before the Dyngus Day extravaganza hit Buffalo this year, the University of Buffalo Libraries added two new Polish-themed collections to its digital archives: one on Buffalo’s Polonia history, and another on Polish Peace Posters printed for the World Peace Council, 1948-1978.

Easter Monday is an official holiday in many countries.

EASTER MONDAY: Eggs roll, horses race, ships sail, polka bands play … and water flies for ‘Dyngus Day’

Obama family waves with Easter bunny on White House balcony

The Obamas will host more than 35,000 visitors during the 135th annual White House Easter Egg Roll. Photo released via Wikimedia Commons

MONDAY, APRIL 1: It’s Easter Monday—and that’s no April Fool!

Western Christians the world over rest from their joyous Easter festivities, joining in the centuries-old tradition of Easter Monday. What used to be a week-long, post-Easter celebration was cut down to one day of secular activities in the 19th century; activities like egg rolling, picnics and pussy willow swatting remain popular activities. (Wikipedia has details.) In Roman Catholic countries, it’s common for the faithful to douse one another with the excess holy water blessed at Easter Sunday Mass.

EASTER MONDAY GLOBALLY: AUSTRALIA

What does Easter Monday look like around the world? In Australia, masses head outdoors for the Oakbank Easter Racing Festival. The Oakbank organization proudly boasts: “Oakbank … rivals the Melbourne Cup in size and colour and it’s 70,000 strong crowd annually on Easter Monday makes it the biggest Picnic Race Meeting on Earth.” This is a horse racing event—in fact, it’s one of Australia’s signature thoroughbred racing events, stretching back to the 1800s. Thousands love to crowd around the course to watch the highly demanding Great Eastern Steeplechase at a distance of 4950 meters, a lengthy course by world standards. The most famous jump is the meter-high fallen log. All other jumps are topped with brush fences.

An early snapshot from this year's race. This is an Australian Three Peaks Race photo and, if you click on it, you can jump to the 2013 photo gallery for the event.

An early snapshot from this year’s race. This is an Australian Three Peaks Race photo and, if you click on it, you can jump to the 2013 photo gallery for the event.

Outdoor sporting festivals are hugely popular in Australia around the Easter weekend. The Australian Three Peaks Race is another massive event, which runs for several days. In fact, the stragglers in the grueling event won’t finish until Tuesday. But, the official crescendo of the race weekend, each year, is on Monday. The Three Peaks Race is a unique mash up of sailing and endurance running. Here is the schedule page. Day-by-day race updates are posted on this page. The sailing course is mapped out on this page.

That’s just a sampling of one nation’s major Easter Monday events! Many other countries make this a special day. Germans hold Easter egg races in open fields; Canadians enjoy a public holiday; and, in Guyana, kites made on Holy Saturday are flown high in the sky.

In contrast, Americans are shortchanging themselves on this particular bash. Of course, that’s not true in every community, especially if you’re part of …

DYNGUS DAY

A scene from Buffalo, New York, Dyngus Day. No, this boat isn't fit for sailing, but it is an example of the elaborate creations seen at this century-old festival.

A scene from Buffalo, New York, Dyngus Day. No, this boat isn’t fit for sailing, but it is an example of the elaborate creations seen at this century-old festival.

Shouts of “Everybody’s Polish on Dyngus Day!” ring out through Buffalo, New York, today, as tens of thousands gather for the city’s renowned Dyngus Day events. Buffalo’s Dyngus Day—the world’s largest organized event of its kind—reigns as the largest polka festival in North America, having attracted more than 25 polka bands from across the country last year. Dyngus Day has been traditionally celebrated in the Polish neighborhoods of Buffalo since the late 1800s.

And for our Polish readers, we can say: “Od ponad 120 lat, obchody Lanego Poniedzialku w Stanach Zjednoczonych rozwijaly sie z ludowej polskiej tradycji w niepowtarzalne Polsko-Amerykanskie obchody. Wiekszosc polskich tradycji ludowych obchodzonych w Stanach Zjednoczonych jest oparta na obyczaju pochodzacym z okresu Wielkiej Emigracji Polakow w latach 1880-1920.”

The official website for Buffalo’s festival has been down, occasionally, this season. You can try it at www.dyngusdaybuffalo.com or check out the Dyngus Day Facebook page.

WANT A TASTE OF POLISH CULTURE? Cook up pierogis and chrusciki and everything in between, with suggestions from AllRecipes and Food Network.

WHITE HOUSE EASTER EGG ROLL GETS A DOSE OF HEALTH

The Obamas host the 135th annual White House Easter Egg Roll today, gathering more than 35,000 children and their parents to the lawns of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. for festive games, “Eggtivities” and, of course, the traditional egg roll. Together with celebrity athletes, the Obamas will promote health and the First Lady’s “Let’s Move!” initiative during this year’s event, with cooking demonstrations, health advice and even a Yoga Garden, complete with professional instructors. (Read more in the Washington Examiner.)