What the Dyngus is Dyngus Day? And Other Mysteries of Buffalo

April 4, 2013
You know when you’re telling a story about something your family used to do all the time when you were growing up — something you just assumed everyone did with their families when they were growing up.

And you’re all like, “Hey, remember when your parents would make you pose for family photos with goats? Wasn’t that so annoying?”

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Or, “Hey, how about when you wanted to go to the mall, but your parents wouldn’t let you because they were too busy plucking turkeys in the driveway. Parents! Amirite?”

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Notice I am not in this picture. Probably because I was trying to hitch-hike my way to the mall.

And then the person you’re talking to just kind of stares at you.

And you have that awkward realization that he has absolutely no idea what you’re talking about because he has never had to pose in a family photo with goats or put up with driveway turkey-plucking.

And then you have to be all like, “Ha, ha, just kidding. My family totally never did that. Because that would just be so weird. Only really weird weirdos would do something like that, right?”

Well, I’ve been having a lot of those moments lately.

But not about my family.

Come on, I think we all knew they were weird.

I've shown you this picture of my mother before, right?

I’ve introduced you to my mother before, right?

Instead, I’ve been having those moments about Buffalo.

Since coming home this past summer, I’ve noticed a few things that we do in this city that I just assumed other people did in other American cities. And then I start talking about those things with people who aren’t from around here, and they’re all like, “Come again?”

For example, butter lambs.

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Behold, butter lambs!

Butter lambs started popping up in the stores around Buffalo about a week or two before Easter.

And they are pretty much exactly what they sound like – a lamb made out of butter.

When I was growing up, my friends would talk about getting butter lambs for Easter dinner.

It just seemed like this thing that people did.

Mind you, my family had never had a butter lamb. But I didn’t think much about that. My parents were always depriving us of awesome things everyone else on the planet got to partake in – like sugar cereals, store bought meat and jelly sandals.

I just assumed that butter lambs were just another thing that everyone on the planet got to do except for us.

And then this weekend, I went to the Broadway Market, a big old-fashioned market in Buffalo.

Broadway Market

Broadway Market

I took some photos of butter lambs on display and posted them on my Facebook page.

It wasn’t until a few people asked me what the heck a butter lamb was that I realized that, oh, this is not really a thing that everyone in the world just does.

Sure, enough, after a little Google searching, I discovered all the sites for butter-lamb-related items were all Buffalo-based.

How is this even possible, guys? How is Buffalo the only place in the world that knows how adorable butter in the shape of a cute, fuzzy sheep can be?

I mean, come on.

EVERYONE should know that.

And there’s Dyngus Day.
 
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Like butter lambs, I grew up hearing about Dyngus Day but never participating in it.

Dyngus Day is kind of like the Polish version of Mardis Gras. Except instead of celebrating before the beginning of Lent, it celebrates at the end of it as it’s held on Easter Monday each year.

As with Mardis Gras, there is a parade and drinking and general revelry.

But with Dyngus Day there’s the added bonus of being able to hit people you like with pussywillows and spray them with water. Because what says, “Hey, you, I think you’re pretty special” more than hitting someone over the head with a tree branch and then dousing them with ice cold water?

Pussy willows. When chocolate or diamond rings just won't do.

Pussy willows. How to TRULY tell someone you care.

I just assumed Dyngus Day was celebrated in most American cities with large Polish populations. Kind of like how St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in cities with large Irish populations. Except I figured Dyngus Day would feature a lot less green beer and a lot more sauerkraut.

It turns out that Dyngus Day is yet another thing that is really not done that much outside of Buffalo – it’s not even done that much in Poland. Or, at least not to the extent that it’s done here in Buffalo.

I mean, we even have our own Dyngus Day guidebook here.

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You know, because you’d hate to be hitting people over the head with pussywillows without some proper instruction.

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Brushing up on my pussywillow-wielding techniques.

This week I got to attend my very first Dyngus Day. And it was pretty much everything I could have hoped for and more.

There was a fire-breathing dragon.

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And Polish dancers.

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And people dressed up as pierogies.

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There were even zombies. Because, apparently, even the living dead enjoy themselves a little Dyngus.

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And just like at Mardis Gras, people on the floats were throwing colored beads into the crowds.

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Luckily, unlike Mardi Gras, you didn’t have to lift up your shirt to get them. As it was about fifty billion degrees below zero and blowing snow.

Because fifty billion degrees below zero and blowing snow in April?

That’s also totally a weird Buffalo thing.

Crazy-pants blowing snow? In April? Because BUFFALO.

Crazy-pants blowing snow? In April? Because BUFFALO.

And, of course, there was plenty of sauerkraut.

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And Polish beer.

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Which, I have to say, tasted a lot like regular beer. I was expecting something a bit more Polish-tasting. Like you know how Corona is usually served with a lime? This stuff should totally be served with a mini-pierogy or some golumpki or something.

As wonderful as all the dragons and Polish zombies and sauerkraut were, my favorite part of the festivities definitely had to be the Kiel-bus-a.

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Because, I mean, BEST NAME EVER.

AND they were throwing free sausage from the bus!

Free sausage, you guys! Free sausage is only like my favorite kind of sausage!

Sadly, as much as I tried, I wasn’t able to get my hands on a lucky link. So I had to ask some guy I had just met if I could take a picture of his sausage. That’s always a fun way to break the ice.

Hey, sir, do you mind if I take a picture of your sausage?

Hey, sir, I know we just met, but do you mind if I take a picture of your sausage?

And, again, I was left wondering how this type of thing doesn’t exist in more parts of the world.

I mean,  how is it that Buffalo is the only place in the world that knows how wonderful free sausage thrown from strangers in a mini-bus can be?

I mean, come on.

EVERYONE should know that.

What unusual traditions or festivals does your hometown or current home celebrate?
36

I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On April 4, 2013 at 8:50 am Marta said:

    I’ve no idea what you’re talking about. Butter lambs, pussy willows and buckets of water, everybody does it, right? Right? I’m totally not giving you a weird stare, I’m smacking you with a pussy willow and stuffing you with another piece of gołąbki ala golumpki.

  2. On April 4, 2013 at 10:19 am Laura said:

    I’ve heard of Dyngus Day!! Please tell me you’ve seen Anderson Cooper completely fall apart while discussing Dyngus Day and pussywillows. It’s a classic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V61VWE5P5z4

    • On April 6, 2013 at 12:20 pm Sally said:

      Oh yes, I’ve seen it. So has the rest of Buffalo. People were NOT happy. In fact, they had more than a few effigies of “Party Pooper Cooper” at the parade.

  3. On April 4, 2013 at 10:42 am cosmoHallitan said:

    So did you at least get the guy’s number after photographing his sausage?
    cosmoHallitan recently posted..Literary Lunch at M on the Bund, Shanghai

  4. On April 4, 2013 at 12:34 pm Magu Bee said:

    Loved this article!

    And it’s so funny to see you guys take it a step further than we do – no more pussy willows on the streets of big cities in Poland!

    Though we still have snow in here as well…

  5. On April 4, 2013 at 12:50 pm Carmel said:

    Wow…and they want to keep Portland weird. I think Buffalo deserves some kind of title. We just have naked bicycle races.

  6. On April 4, 2013 at 2:39 pm kathy said:

    Okay, enough with the blogging you MUST have your own show on the Travel channel.
    How far in advance should I make my hotel reservation for next years Dyngus Day?

    • On April 6, 2013 at 12:04 pm Sally said:

      Hmm…. good question. You’ll probably want to book at least a few weeks in advance… I mean, especially after this blog post. I’m sure now EVERYONE will want to come to Dyngus Day and get their chance at free sausage!

  7. On April 4, 2013 at 7:54 pm Sarah P | Travelling Is My Passion said:

    I’ve never heard of Dyngus Day but it sounds fun!

    I’m Tamil and thought I’d share about a lesser known Tamil festival!

    In Singapore, the Hindu community celebrates Thaipusam – which is a festival celebrated mostly by the Tamil community on the full moon of a particular day in the Tamil calendar (typically falls in Jan / Feb).

    Part of the celebrations includes a ceremonial worship dance called Kavadi. The emphasis is on bearing a physical burden of some sort as an act of devotion to God!

    On the festival day, male devotees will carry a Kavadi on their shoulders as they walk a long route to the temple – there are many types but the most impressive kind is a HUGE, heavy spoke wheel type contraption that pierces the devotee’s body in many places.

    Amazingly, the devotee (if they’ve prepared right by praying, fasting, celibacy in the days leading up, etc) will feel no pain. It’s considered a big honour and a rite of passage for Hindus I think (I’m not Hindu but my dad’s family is!)

    Note: Only males can carry Kavadis (due to the physical demands) but females can participate by carrying a pot of milk on their heads and also doing a mini piercing of their tongues.

    Most devotees also enter into a trance whilst carrying the Kavadi – which is what makes it so interesting for festivals onlookers.

    More info at Wikipedia: http://bit.ly/Z40dzd

    Hope it was alright for me to share!
    Sarah P | Travelling Is My Passion recently posted..Food Pilgrimage: The Chocolate Theatre Cafe in Windsor, England

  8. On April 4, 2013 at 10:55 pm Peter R said:

    Hey, that was my sausage that appears in this article. I would’ve given it to you if I had known that you wanted it. I ended up giving to to Gail to take home to Boston, NY

  9. On April 4, 2013 at 11:36 pm Sue B said:

    I ordered a butter lamb after seeing a picture…I felt it was an Easter must-have. Much appreciated by the family, although they were a bit reluctant to cut off the lamb’s head. I got it from a store which had a minimum order for shipping to Tennessee so I added some stuffed cabbage and some sausages and some potato-stuffed pierogies. And I’m not Polish or from Buffalo. But sometimes you know a great thing when you see it.

    • On April 6, 2013 at 12:01 pm Sally said:

      Wow. I can’t believe I inspired you to order a butter lamb! I feel so inspirational. And good call on the pierogies and sausage! You can never have too much of that!

  10. On April 5, 2013 at 1:17 pm Amanda @ Adventures All Around said:

    Butter lambs?! Dyngle Day? I’ve learnt so much this morning, and will have to make sure my first trip to Buffalo coincides with this one!

    As for my (very small Australian) home town… the Beardie Festival celebrates the men with beards who helped start the area. So men shave off their beards on the same day and then grow them. Prizes then given out in various categories.

    Oh of course you’ve heard of it! Sorry…
    Amanda @ Adventures All Around recently posted..Addams Family Musical Spooks Sydney

  11. On April 6, 2013 at 5:33 am Kat said:

    Do people eat these buttlerlambs whole? Butter makes everything better.

    • On April 6, 2013 at 11:57 am Sally said:

      I don’t think they’re eaten whole — just served on the table like you would a normal stick of butter. But, then again, I’m a novice at this whole butter lamb thing, so for all I know there are special butter lamb eating customs I don’t know about!

  12. On April 6, 2013 at 6:50 am choi kum fook said:

    So surprising many cultures and festivals can be found in Buffalo!I think the people over there enjoy them very much as illustrated from pictures.Good have a chance to visit in future! In Malaysia, they usually depend on religious and seasonal factors.They usually take place in Chinese temple for celebrating their God or Goddess birthday. Stage show will be held at night with dinner together. Miss Sally, I think you had joined some of them.Did you enjoyed them?

  13. On April 8, 2013 at 10:10 pm Erik said:

    Ok- I’ve never heard of this one, but you really can’t go wrong with all those food options!!!!

  14. On June 14, 2013 at 1:54 pm Ceri said:

    Jelly sandals!!! I remember those.

    Anyhoo … getting to the actual point of this post, Dyngus Day sounds awesome!!! 😀 I need to be in Buffalo next Easter. That sounds friggin’ brilliant. 😀 Ha!
    Ceri recently posted..NY Bucket List: #1 – Visit Central Park

  15. On June 20, 2013 at 1:48 pm Alana said:

    I’m from Buffalo, too! I love the Broadway Market. My family buys butter lambs for every Easter, but I have never actually attended Dyngus Day. Next year! I love your blog so much. I recently started reading it, and I just realized you are from Buffalo. It made my day!
    I’m in high school right now. I can’t wait until I’m old enough to travel and see all of the cool places and people out there. It seems so far away right now, especially from my bedroom in small town Western New York, but reading your blog makes it all seem more realistic. Especially now that I know you’re from Buffalo, too!

    • On June 21, 2013 at 7:05 am Sally said:

      Alana,
      I LOVED this message. It totally made MY day! And, YES, you must make it to the Dyngus Day parade. And you WILL travel and see cool places and people out there. Even just the fact that you want to travel tells me that you will for sure. When I was in high school, I never even thought about traveling EVER. And look at all the places I ended up! I’m sure you’ll be going MUCH FARTHER than me!

  16. On April 21, 2014 at 12:51 pm Misty said:

    In Cincinnati Ohio we have Geotta Festivals!

  17. On March 2, 2017 at 4:35 pm Jen said:

    Thank you for the wonderful article. I recognize this blog post was from a while back, but I hope you are still answering comments. There is a lot information about Dyngus Day but not much about things to do as family during Dyngus day in buffalo. I found this article https://www.hotelsnearme.co/content/celebrating-dyngus-day-buffalo-new-york but there isn’t much noted for families. Any help would be much appreciated.

    • On March 25, 2017 at 12:16 pm Sally said:

      Sorry for the late reply to your comment! From my experience, Dyngus Day isn’t much of a family event. Of course, families and children are welcome to the parade. Another fun family-friendly activity is to visit Broadway Market for pussy willows, Easter candy and other seasonal goodies. But most of the Dyngus Day activities tend to revolve around drinking and partying — kine of like Mardi Gras or St. Patrick’s Day.

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