Polish Traditions for Spring

Young Bloggers  /   /  By Abigail Herrington
Stone Soup Magazine
May 2019

Spring! The time for new beginnings, beautiful flowers, the burning of effigies made in the image of the Slavic goddess of winter and a national holiday devoted to splashing each other with water, well at least in Poland.

Śmigus-Dyngus or “Wet Monday”

Śmigus-Dyngus is holiday in which people participate in giant water fights. The holiday is celebrated on the Monday that immediately follows Easter. In the past it was only young men and women who would do the water fight. The young men would whack the legs of the young women and pour water over the girl’s head as a way of showing affection. A bit odd, isn’t it? Now the water fight is welcome to everyone, young and old, male or female. The origins of this holiday actually come from two holidays: Śmigus, and Dyngus. Śmigus was a holiday that involved the whacking of people’s legs with palm fronds and willows. Dyngus was a holiday that involved drenching people in water to cleanse them of their sins. The holidays eventually were combined to form the joint holiday Śmigus-Dyngus. The water is supposed to evoke rains for a good harvest next year. Happiness and health are themes commonly attributed to Śmigus-Dyngus.

The Drowning and Burning of Marzanna

Marzanna is the Slavic goddess of winter. In Poland, people make effigies of the goddess which they proceed to burn, then drown. This symbolizes the departure of winter and the readiness for spring. This ritual is usually done around March 21st or around Spring Equinox. It is very important to throw all parts of the effigies into the river. Not an ash or accessory is spared. There is also sometimes singing or reciting of old verses such as “Marzanna, Marzanna, swim across the seas. Let flowers bloom, and fields turn green.” This tradition is interesting and, dare I say, a little morbid.

Conclusion

Poland has some very interesting traditions for spring. Smigus-Dyngus is the holiday in which people are drenched in water. It’s celebrated on the Monday after Easter and I, personally, think that a giant water fight with all of my town would be very fun. The other tradition I talked about was the drowning and burning of Marzanna. Marzanna is the Slavic goddess of winter and effigies are made in her image then burned to signify the ending of winter. Poland would be very fun to visit in the spring.
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