Every year on Easter Monday, Poles, especially young girls, are on the lookout. Perhaps they choose to wear a raincoat that day. Or they decide to not venture out of the house. Because not even a raincoat or a sturdy umbrella can save them from Śmigus-Dyngus.
Śmigus-Dyngus, also known as lany poniedziałek (Wet Monday), is a celebration held on Easter Monday where people drench their friends with water. Yes folks, Poland engages in a huge water fight.
Traditionally, boys would seek out their female friends. The celebration has pagan roots and ties with the end of winter, with water ensuring fertility in the upcoming spring. Once Christianity established in the county, the purification element of water was added to the celebration’s symbolism.
As a kid, my cousins and I would fill multiple egg-shaped squirt guns and go at it, squirting everyone from our friends to family. Not even babcia was safe.
The average Pole uses 5 liters (approximately 1.3 gallons) of water for drenching on Easter Monday, according to news sources. Seems quite wasteful given we are experiencing a drought in California, but I digress. There are even laws associated with Śmigus-Dyngus. A person can be fined between 500 to 5,000 złotych (approximately $134-$1,340) if they drench strangers/passersby, homes, vehicles (e.g, cars, buses, trams), etc. After all, it is supposed to be a fun and lighthearted event, not an opportunity for vandalism.
At our house, my son and I celebrated Śmigus-Dyngus by patiently waiting with a squirt gun in hand for daddy to return home. Once he pulled into the driveway, we greeted him with smiles and a squirt of water to the face! He did not see it coming! Daddy did get us back—especially me, even though it was our son who squirted him in the face. Our son held the squirt gun; I just held him and may or may not have guided his little hand…
I hope everyone had a fun Easter!