How to Celebrate Dyngus Day, a Lively, Post-Lenten Polish Celebration

Sausage and beer at 9:30 in the morning? Sign us up.

April 7, 2023 6:45 am
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It’s 9:30 a.m. In one hand, I’m holding a Polish sausage, and in the other, a light beer. And it’s not my first of either. I’m standing in a civic club in South Bend, Indiana, and there’s an 80s cover band playing in the background. I am chatting with a group of six people, one of which is a local mayoral candidate who is passionately explaining his multi-step approach to fix the traffic downtown, hoping to secure my vote. In the street, a red and white float idles by with a full polka band in tow. No, this isn’t some sort of whiskey fueled fever dream — this is Dyngus Day at its finest.

Dyngus Day is a centuries-old Polish holiday and post-Easter celebration. Dyngus, coming from the German word dingeier, meaning owed eggs, refers to the custom of hiding Easter eggs the day prior. This tradition was carried with the Polish immigrants that settled in cities like South Bend. What St. Patrick’s Day is to the Irish, Dyngus Day is to the Polish. Since 1920, this holiday has become a city-wide celebration in various places in upstate New York, Cleveland and South Bend where people celebrate Polish culture and politics.

It is tough to say how politics exactly weaved their way into the post-Lenten celebration, though one can assume local candidates took to the literal streets when campaigning, taking advantage of the celebrations and crowds. Today, Dyngus Day marks the beginning of the year’s political primary campaign season, drawing massive crowds and politicians. Names like Robert F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Pete Buttigieg, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have all canvassed on Dyngus Day.

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For local businesses, Dyngus Day is massive. Rosanne K, a South Bend business owner, says the town all but shuts down. “Any business that isn’t a bar, restaurant or political hall will likely close early that day because everyone is downtown meeting politicians, drinking beer and eating sausage,” she says. 

Marybeth M, a local restaurateur who has been navigating the holiday for decades, also highlights that Dyngus Day is truly an inclusive and uplifting affair. “People are in good moods from partying all day,” she says. “You’ll see everyone celebrating, from business people in suits to students, all one in the same.”

A typical Dyngus Day celebration will go something like this: first, you’ll start the day around 8:00 a.m. in a Polish church like St. Hedwig for sausage, noodles, sweet and sour cabbage, pierogi and boiled eggs. Then, you’ll move on to a VFW, Conversation Hall or other dimly lit, wood-paneled room for kielbasa, beer and polka music. Finally, in-between listening to a local congressman speak and dodging the parade, you’ll likely find yourself at a tent party around downtown. Here you’ll enjoy, you guessed it, sausage, beer and more live music. The uniqueness of this celebration is not only the duration (you can and should make it an all-day affair), but the wonderful cocktail of heritage, food and politics. So, on April 10, if you’re in Northern Indiana, stop through South Bend for some sausage, civic discussions and the most eccentric party this side of the Atlantic.

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