Dyngus Day is an old Polish tradition of celebrating the end of lent on the Monday after Easter with a large buffet of Easter foods like ham, kielbasa, fresh baked goods and eggs. Lots of dancing and celebrating. And it’s also a day when the boys chase the girls with pussy willows and sprinkle them with water.
Why pussy willows? They’re one of the first “budding” plants of spring. According to Polish legend.....a litter of kittens fell into a raging river while chasing butterflies. The mother cat sadly sat at the edge of the river crying, realizing there was nothing she could do, but the willows heard her cries and they swept their branches into the water, the kittens grabbed ahold of the branches and held on tightly until they were brought to the edge of the river and safety. Every spring from that day on the willows sprouted fur-like buds where the kittens had clung to the branches.

Buffalo’s Dyngus Day celebrations are believed to be the largest of anywhere in the United States. It’s always been celebrated in Polish neighborhoods, but the big day-long celebrations we have today were started in the early 60’s by the Chopin Singing Society and they were so successful, other east side restaurants joined in. That tradition continues today with the 50th annual Dyngus Day celebration at the Hearthstone Manor in Depew and the annual Dyngus Day parade starting from the Broadway Market and ending with a celebration at the Central Terminal.