Smigus, Dyngus to Port Richmond

PRBA to holdy Dyngus Day event featuring Polish food and entertainment.

Polka time: Traditional Polish dancers perform at the Polish Harvest Festival at St. Adalbert Parish in 2015. PKM dancers will perform at the Dyngus Day event on Easter Monday in Port Richmond.

By Melissa Komar

Imagine being roused from your sleep with a splash of water to the face.

If you are Polish, you may have fond memories of this happening every year on Easter Monday.

Sandra Tomaszewski, Port Richmond Business Alliance president and lifelong Port Richmond resident, can’t remember life without it.

“Growing up Catholic, we went to church Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday,” she said, “so, Monday morning, Easter Monday, every year, my dad would come sprinkle me in the face with water and say, ‘Smigus, Dyngus.’ It was a celebration.”

The older you are, the more intense the dousing.

“As I got older, it was more intense,” Tomaszewski said. “It was buckets of water. Wherever I would go, there would be buckets and last year, I came in [Donna’s Bar] and was wet with a water gun.”

Sophie Zalewski, PRBA board member and owner of Donna’s Bar, has similar memories.

“It’s a long tradition and it used to be really big,” she said. “In Poland, you would go out and not come home dry. People would drench you. Literally, the buckets of water would come down from everywhere.”

The first thing Zalewski bought for her son when he was younger for Easter was a water gun.

“So, Easter Monday, he would shoot me with water,” she said, laughing. “I had cousins from Poland staying at my house and my son would get them out of bed on Easter Monday and throw them in the shower. And you can’t be mad. It’s a tradition.”

The tradition of sprinkling or splashing with water to start the day on Easter Monday is referred to as Dyngus Day, also known as “Wet Monday” or “Mokry Poniedzialek” or “Lany Poniedzialek” in Poland, according to Zalewski.

Polish descendants trace the roots of the holiday to 966 and the baptism of Poland’s Mieszko I and his court on Easter Monday.

The Port Richmond Business Alliance wants to bring the spirit of the tradition to the community, sans the water — Zalewski and Tomaszewski joked there might be some sprinkling in the parking lot — with a Dyngus Day celebration on Easter Monday at the Polish Eagle Sports Club.

“It’s like when people say that everybody is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day,” Tomaszewski said. “Everybody is Polish on Dyngus Day.”

The idea to host a Dyngus Day event has circulated among the PRBA board members for a few years.

“We wanted to do something that was festive for the families and tied into the holiday, which is Easter, and the cultural aspect of the neighborhood as well,” Tomaszewski said. “We want this to be family friendly. We want parents to be able to bring their kids to the event.”

Children will have plenty to keep them busy.

The event will feature a balloon artist, face painting and an arts and crafts table.

Strap on your dancing shoes for a Polka or two.

PKM dancers from the Associated Polish Home in Northeast Philadelphia will perform, and the Music Box Band, the Polish American String Band and a DJ will provide live entertainment.

And leave the cooking to the Dinner House Restaurant and Donna’s Bar.

Traditional Polish food will round out the menu including platski (potato pancakes), golumpki (stuffed cabbage), nalesniki (crepes), zurek (soup), pierogi, kielbasa and sauerkraut, and chicken fingers (for any finicky eaters).

Desserts will include babka and chrusciki.

You can wash it down with traditional Polish beer and spirits including Zywiec.

Want to show your Polish heritage loud and proud?

The Polish Cultural Center Museum will have Polish souvenirs available for purchase.

Similar to PRBA’s signature event, Taste of Port Richmond, the hope is the day will allow the group to connect to the community, and give residents an opportunity to put a name to a face.

“This is a chance for the business alliance members and local business owners to get to know the neighborhood on a more personal level,” Tomaszewski said.

Like Dyngus Day itself, Zalewski hopes the event will happen every year.

“We’d like to start a tradition,” she said. “Hopefully, we can. We just want people to get out and socialize and have a fun day.”

Ultimately, giving back is the main objective.

“The Port Richmond Business Alliance is hosting the event,” Tomaszewski said, “and our goal is to invest back into the community.”

Other event sponsors support that sentiment.

The Polish Eagle Sports Club is waiving the rental fee, Washington Savings Bank is covering the cost of desserts, and JP Tee’s is designing T-shirts that will be sold at the event, a portion of which will be donated free of charge.

Proceeds will benefit neighborhood schools and Polish American Social Services.

The Dyngus Day event will be held on Monday, April 17, from 3 to 8 p.m. at the Polish Eagle Sports Club, 3157 Thompson St. Enter from the Clementine Street parking lot. Admission fee is $10. Children under 12 are free. Traditional Polish food and drinks will be available for purchase. Raffle tickets and T-shirts will be sold.