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Next story: Polonia on Parade

East Side Story

Romance Blooms in Polonia

Dyngus Day is considered by many as the Polish Fat Tuesday, celebrating the ending of lent instead of the start. Though it might be fitting to consider it as the original Valentines Day as well. Young Polish men and woman have been showing their affections for each other on Easter Monday for centuries; because what says, “I love you” more than dumping a bucket a water over your head and spanking you with a pussy willow branch?

So maybe these Dyngus Day traditions do not have the same effect as a box of chocolates and flowers, but people like Aimee Winiarski can attest to the power Smigus-Dyngus has on love. Aimee is now a second-generation Dyngus bride. Her parents met on the holiday back in 1977 and she met her husband, Scott on Dyngus Day in 2010.

Out at the Central Terminal celebrating the holiday with her family, Amiee was introduced to Scott through mutual friends. As Scott started talking with Amiee the conversation was interrupted by Amiee’s mother who immediately started grilling her daughter’s suitor. “She asked him: ‘Are you Polish? Do you work? Do you go to Church?’ I was so embarrassed, I totally thought she ruined any chances with him,” said Amiee.

However, the night was still young and Dyngus Day was not done working it’s magic. Later on Amiee met up with friends at St. Stanislaus Social Center. “I was going to get drinks for all of us and the building was packed with people. I finally found this open spot at the bar and when I got up to it, Scott was standing right next to me,” said Amiee. With thousands of people out on Dyngus Day in Buffalo, the only open space at the bar happened to be right next to Scott. “I guess you could say that ‘fate’ brought us back together that night. There is definitely love in the air on the East Side of Buffalo during Dyngus Day,” said Amiee. Scott and Amiee would talk until 4am that night and began dating shortly after. The couple was married in August of 2014 and is expecting their first child this July.

While Dyngus Day certainly has an effect on couples finding each other, does it means anything for those already in love? It certainly does for Maria Rusinski who will be getting married at the Dyngus Day parade this year.

Maria and her fiancé Tom grew up together on Clark Street in Buffalo, the couple reconnected and started dating in 2012, and Tom would propose on Good Friday of last year. “When we were trying to decide what day we should get married on, I suggested ‘Why don’t we have a fun wedding and have it on Dyngus Day?’ and [Tom] thought that was a great idea,” said Maria. “When we say we’re getting married on Dyngus Day, people tell us we’re crazy, but we just wanted to have fun on our wedding day. What better day to do that on?”

The wedding will be taking place at 10am at the Polish National Catholic Church of Holy Trinity on Lake Shore Drive in Woodlawn, with the reception following shortly after. “The reception is going to have all homemade Polish food made by our families. We will have gołobki, polish sausage, lazy pierogi, potatoes, and Tom made homemade Krupnik,” said Maria. After the reception the party will be heading out to the east side for the Dyngus Day Parade. “The Eden Carriage Company wanted to put a carriages in the parade and offered for us to ride in it,” said Maria. “So the wedding party and family will be on the float and we will be right behind them in the carriage. I have bouquets that will be thrown off the float for the women, and garters for the guys.” Having grown up on the east side of the city, Maria and Tom will be using Dyngus Day to celebrate where they came from. “That’s one of the reason why we decided to have the wedding on Dyngus Day, because it’s part of where our roots come from. We both come from Polish families and the parade will go through the neighbor we grew up in,” said Maria, who will be showing off her Polish pride wearing her red and white wedding dress through out the entire day.

So for those who feel they missed out on love on Valentines Day, fear not, because a cold bucket of water, the whip of pussy willow, and true love might be headed your way.

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