Easter Monday

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Easter Monday

Ball Monday, Dousing Day, Dyngus, Dyngus Day, Husvét
Hétfoge, Lany Poniedzialek (Wet Monday), Paasch
Maandag, Smigus, Swietego Lejka (St. Drencher's Day)

People in more than eighty countries of the world celebrate the day after Easter as a holiday. Easter celebrations continue, accompanied in some cases by traditional folk practices. In much of central and northern Europe these customs include walks in the countryside, egg games, drenching people with water, and striking them with wands made out of tree twigs.


Easter Monday stands as the last remnant of a once much longer season of post-Easter festivities. In the early Middle Ages people treated the entire week following Easter as a holiday. In England King Alfred the Great (849-899) decreed that none need to labor in the fourteenday period that surrounded Easter. This included Holy Week, the week preceding the festival, and Easter Week, the week following. People tended to their religious devotions in the week before Easter and celebrated with feasts, parties, games, relaxation, and attendance at religious services in the week after. By the thirteenth century this two-week period had shortened and shifted to the latter half of Holy Week and the ten days following Easter. These last two days, the second Monday and Tuesday after Easter somehow acquired the mysterious name of Hocktide. In 1552 Parliament passed a law restricting post-Easter festivities to the Monday and Tuesday directly following Easter. This state of affairs lasted until the nineteenth century, when lawmakers further reduced rejoicing to the Monday following Easter, known as Easter Monday.

Ball Games

In England ball games, such as stoolball, trapball, knurr-and-spell, ninepins, bowls, handball, and football, once enjoyed great popularity as Easter season diversions. In past times the inhabitants of Oxfordshire referred to Easter Monday as Ball Monday, because it kicked off a season of the year especially associated with these games. Some were played for the first time that year on Easter Monday.

Heaving and Related Customs

In England Easter Monday customs have evolved over time. In the Middle Ages folk tradition gave women the right to pull men out of bed on Easter Monday morning. Kings Edward I and II were both known to have submitted to this custom. In northern England folk tradition permitted men to catch any woman on Easter Monday, and, by grabbing hold of her arms and legs, heave her three times into the air. The next day women took the same liberty with men. In later centuries the more courtly lifters sat people of the opposite sex in a chair decorated with ribbons before hoisting them into the air. Others ignored this refinement. In England heaving, or lifting, died out in the nineteenth century. The custom seems to have survived in the Netherlands, however, where men are permitted to heave women into the air three times in a row between nine a.m. and noon on Easter Monday. According to tradition the women reward the men for their efforts with a kiss. The following day women lift men into the air.

Heaving or lifting customs are sometimes explained as symbolic of the rising motion associated with the Resurrection. Indeed, in England during the nineteenth century some Easter Monday lifters sang, "Jesus Christ is risen again!" as they approached candidates for heaving. It is also possible that this explanation was attached to the custom after the fact.

Egg Rolling, Pace Egging, and Other Egg Customs

Egg-rolling contests often take place in northern Britain on Easter Monday. Contestants choose what they hope to be prize-winning Easter eggs and line up at the top of a hill. Egg-rolling rules vary from event to event. In some places the winner is the person whose egg rolls the farthest distance. In others victory attaches itself to the person whose egg survives the most rolls intact. In still others top honors go to the person whose egg rolls between two pegs. Some folklorists believe that egg-rolling may have originally symbolized the rolling away of the stone that sealed Jesus' tomb. In the United States a well-known egg rolling contest takes place each year on the White House lawn.

In past times children or young men in northern England and Scotland went pace egging on Easter Monday. The word pace comes from the original Greek word for Easter, Pascha. Gathering together in small groups, they would tour the neighborhood chanting folk verses or presenting a short folk play at each dwelling. In return for their efforts children asked for eggs, and young men for small change or something to drink. Pace egging was also once practiced in Belgium, Denmark, and the Netherlands, though on different days during the Easter season.

In the Netherlands children play egg games on Paasch Maandag, or Easter Monday. Younger children may continue to hunt for Easter eggs, a pastime called eierrapen. In another game, called eierrikken, children select hard-boiled, dyed Easter eggs of various colors and divide themselves into two teams. The teams form two lines that face each other, so that each child is paired with an opponent from the other team that carries an egg of the same color. By tapping one egg against the other, the paired opponents try to break each others' egg shells. The winner of each match keeps the loser's egg and goes on to face a new opponent. The child who gathers the most eggs wins (see also Egg Tapping). Both children and adults may participate in eier- garen, another Easter Monday egg game whose popularity can be traced back to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Game organizers set a tub of water containing a large apple in the middle of a street. Then they place twenty-five eggs at twelve-foot intervals along the street. The game consists of a race between two contestants, one who must eat the apple with his or her hands tied behind his or her back, while the other must gather the eggs into a basket. Whoever finishes first wins.

Dousing and Switching

In many of the countries of northern and central Europe old folk customs encouraged people to douse one another with water or strike one another with wands of birch or willow twigs around Easter time (see also Finland, Easter and Holy Week in; Sweden, Easter and Holy Week in). Folklorists suspect that these switching customs evolved out of ancient beliefs that the gentle blows drive away bad influences and impart good health. Often tradition permitted the boys to vex the girls with these practices on Easter Monday, while the girls took revenge on the following day. Nowadays, in many places where these old practices have survived both boys and girls perform them on Easter Monday.

Old Czech Easter customs instructed boys to weave together willow branches and then decorate them with ribbons and flowers (see also Czech Republic, Easter and Holy Week in). Banding together on Easter Monday the boys went door to door, caroling for Easter eggs and switching the girls. Similar customs were also once practiced in Austria, southern Germany, Poland, and Slovakia.

In Hungary tradition invited boys to dunk girls in water on Husvét Hétfoje, or Easter Monday (see also Hungary, Easter and Holy Week in). For this reason the day is also known as "Dousing Day." Recent modifications to the old tradition encourage sprinkling rather than dunking. In return for the drenching girls traditionally presented boys with gifts of eggs, flowers, bread, cakes, and wine.

Polish lads also drenched girls with water on Easter Monday, a holiday known as Smigus or Dyngus, or as Dyngus Day to many Polish Americans. Throughout the centuries Polish boys have employed a variety of methods to wet the girls, from dunking them in a stream or water trough, to splashing them with water carried in a can, bucket, or other device. Some made a point of rising early in order to drench a girl as she laying drowsing in bed. In a more chivalrous version of this practice, some urban youth sprinkled girls with perfume rather than drench them with water. The girls sometimes attempted to buy off the more aggressive water-throwers with gifts of Easter eggs. Easter Monday is so closely associated with these customs that Poles often call the holiday Lany Poniedzialek (Wet Monday) or Swietego Lejka (St. Drencher's Day). The very next day tradition permitted girls free reign to drench the boys with water.

Polish youth continue to enjoy these dunking customs on Easter Monday, crying out, "Smigus!" as the water hits their mark. Nowadays, however, local girls are not the only targets. Passersby, people going to or from church, and tourists may be greeted with a bucketful of water on Dyngus Day. Polish police have threatened to fine those who make a public nuisance of themselves.

Visits and Walks

The Gospel reading traditionally associated with Easter Monday relates that the risen Jesus first appeared to his disciple Peter as he and a companion were walking from Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus (Luke 24:1-34). A number of old Easter Monday customs reflect this association, encouraging people to take small journeys on this day. In Austria Easter Monday customarily served as a day to visit the sick or the elderly. In central Europe Christians celebrated Easter Monday with an outing called an Emmaus walk. These group walks to a picturesque site in the countryside ended with a shared meal.

In Poland people once practiced chodzenie on Easter Monday. Young people gathered together in groups and went door to door singing songs and reciting bits of folk poetry. On Easter Monday some boisterous youths combined this custom with water throwing, threatening to drench householders who did not offer them anything in return for their efforts. Good-humored families usually presented the Easter carolers with a few treats, including Easter eggs, a taste of homemade liquor, small change, a piece of cake, or a bite of sausage. Polish folk tradition permitted chodzenie throughout the Easter season, a fifty-day period beginning on Easter Sunday and ending on Pentecost.

Further Reading

Blackburn, Bonnie, and Leofranc Holford-Strevens. The Oxford Companion to the Year. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1999. Griffin, Robert H., and Ann H. Shurgin, eds. The Folklore of World Holidays. Second edition. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1999. Henderson, Helene, and Sue Ellen Thompson, eds. Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary. Second edition. Detroit, MI: Omnigraphics, 1997. Hole, Christina. British Folk Customs. London, England: Hutchinson and Company, 1976. Howard, Alexander. Endless Cavalcade. London, England: Arthur Barker, 1964. Hutton, Ronald. Stations of the Sun. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1996. Weaver, Robert S. International Holidays. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1995. Weiser, Francis X. The Easter Book. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1954.

Web Site

"Dyngus and Lany Poneidzialek," an article by Robert Strybel published in the Am-Pol Eagle, a newspaper serving western New York's Polish-American population, posted at:
Encyclopedia of Easter, Carnival, and Lent, 1st ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2002

Easter Monday

Type of Holiday: Religious (Christian)
Date of Observation: The day after Easter
Where Celebrated: Europe and many countries around the world
Symbols and Customs: Dousing, Egg Rolling, Emmaus Walk, Switching Related Holidays : Easter


Easter Monday is a holiday in more than eighty different countries. In these countries people relax and celebrate on the day after EASTER. Unlike Easter day celebrations, however, the customs associated with Easter Monday place less emphasis on religious themes and more emphasis on having a good time. In Central and Northern Europe people still enjoy a number of old folk customs- DOUSING , EGG ROLLING contests, E MMAUS WALKS , and SWITCHING -long associated with the holiday. In the Middle Ages, people celebrated Easter for an entire week. Historical records show that King Alfred the Great of England (849-899) decreed that labor should cease in the weeks before and after Easter Sunday. While solemn religious devotions dominated the week before Easter, light-hearted festivities reigned during the week after Easter. This period of time, called Easter Week, ended on the Sunday after Easter, which is known in English-speaking countries as Low Sunday or White Sunday. During this week, people feasted, played games, relaxed, and attended parties. The newly baptized continued to wear white clothing in celebration of their initiation into the Christian religion. This period of feasting and merry-making broke the sober mood that had been established during the six weeks of LENT, during which many people fasted, examined their consciences, and took up additional spiritual practices. In the centuries that followed the Middle Ages, the period of post-Easter festivity gradually shortened. In many countries today, just one day of celebration remains, Easter Monday.

Some of the customs associated with Easter Monday, such as SWITCHING and DOUS ING , seem to have little relationship to Easter or to Christian spirituality. In fact, some folklorists believe that these practices got their start as ancient European folk customs designed to confer the blessings of health or fertility. How they became associated with Easter is not known for sure, but it may be that people practiced these customs in the spring in order to celebrate the return of fertility and growth in nature. Over time they became associated with what became the main springtime holiday in Europe: Easter.

E GG ROLLING games have a more logical link to Easter Monday, since Easter eggs are a symbol of the Easter holiday. The earliest records of egg rolling games in Europe date back to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Christian folklore common to Orthodox and Protestant Christians views egg rolling as a symbol of the rolling away of the stone sealing Jesus in the tomb.



In Hungary and Poland, an old custom encourages boys to douse girls with water on Easter Monday. In fact, the Hungarian folk name for the holiday translates as "Dousing Day" or "Water Plunge Monday." Hungarian folk beliefs insisted that drenching women and girls with water on this day blessed them with good health, fertility, and the likelihood of being a good wife. Sometimes boisterous males dragged their female counterparts to nearby streams or ponds in order to confer these blessings on them. Folk tradition encouraged women to respond to this treatment by offering the men eggs, bread, or wine. Especially gracious women might offer all three. In some places these old Easter Monday customs continue today, with some modification. Nowadays men have adopted the more gentlemanly practice of sprinkling women with water or cologne.

In Poland young people often carry cans or buckets of water, in order to drench their targets. Indeed, the Poles call the holiday Lany Poniedzialek (Wet Monday), or Swietgo Lejka (St. Drencher's Day). As the water hits its mark, Polish youth cry out, "Smigus!" Hence, among Polish Americans the day is known as Smigus or Dyngus Day. In past times, boys sought to douse girls with water on Easter Monday. Girls were permitted to give the boys the same treatment on Easter Tuesday. These distinctions have blurred in recent times. Moreover, Polish youth have widened their targets of interest and often throw water at passersby, tourists, and neighbors.

Egg Rolling

Egg rolling is a traditional European folk game associated with Easter. Participants roll hard-boiled eggs down a hill or a slight incline. The person whose egg goes the farthest without cracking or gets down the hill first wins. In certain places, the goal consists of rolling the egg between two pegs in the ground. In some places uncracked eggs can be rolled again, and the person whose egg survives the most rolls intact wins the contest. In many countries, egg rolling contests traditionally take place on Easter Monday.

One very famous Easter Monday egg rolling contest takes place at the White House. This custom dates back to before the Civil War. In that era, bands of children who lived in Washington gathered at the Capitol Building on Easter Monday and set up their contests on the terraced lawns along the building's west front. By the 1870s, however, the nation's senators and congressmen had grown unhappy with the mess left behind by the egg rollers, as well as the toll the ever-growing number of participants took on the lawn. In 1876 Congress actually passed a law preventing anyone from using the grounds of the Capitol Building as a play area. President Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881) came to the rescue, permitting area youngsters to transfer their egg rolling contest to the White House lawn. The games have continued at the White House on Easter Monday since that time, with brief exceptions during World War I, World War II, and the White House remodeling that took place after the Second World War.

In the early days of the White House egg rolling contests, the children themselves organized the games. As the years went by, however, White House staff members became more involved in organizing the popular event. In recent years it has taken about 500 volunteers in addition to White House staff members to pull off this Easter extravaganza. These workers prepare by hard boiling between 5,000 and 10,000 eggs. On Easter Monday, about 30,000 people attend the event, including the young contest participants (children under the age of seven) and their family members. The free tickets given to the children specify the time at which they and their family members must arrive for their egg rolling heat. Contest participants are given a souvenir wooden egg to take home with them. In a twist of the rules governing many other events, all adults must be accompanied by children.

Emmaus Walk

The people of central Europe sometimes honor Easter Monday with an Emmaus Walk. These walks into the countryside for an outdoor meal symbolize the story of the first appearance of the risen Jesus as told in the Gospel According to Luke (Luke 24:13-35). In this account, Jesus appears to two of his former companions as the men journey on foot from Jerusalem to a small town called Emmaus. The three men talk about spiritual matters as they walk, and the stranger reveals heretofore hidden meanings in the scriptures to Jesus' followers. At the end of the journey, the men invite the inspiring stranger to spend the night and share a meal with them. When Jesus breaks bread with them, the men recognize the stranger as Jesus. In the same instant, Jesus disappears.

In past times, Emmaus Walks may have involved some religious activities. Today, however, they usually involve groups of friends and family members traveling together to a pretty spot in the countryside for a picnic, games, music, and other relaxing leisure activities. In some places, church congregations may organize events of these kinds.


In central and northern Europe, some people observe Easter Monday by striking one another lightly with birch or willow wands. Folklorists refer to this custom as switching. In past times, custom permitted the boys to switch the girls on Easter Monday. The girls returned the favor on the following day, Easter Tuesday. This distinction has been abandoned in most places however, and both boys and girls practice the custom on Easter Monday.


Gulevich, Tanya. Encyclopedia of Easter, Carnival, and Lent. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2004. Henderson, Helene, ed. Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary. 3rd ed. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2005. Weiser, Francis X. The Easter Book. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1954.


White House www.whitehouse.gov/easter/2006
Holiday Symbols and Customs, 4th ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2009

Easter Monday

Between March 23 and April 26; Monday after Easter
Although Easter Sunday is the culmination of Holy Week and the end of Lent, the following Monday (also known as Pasch Monday ) is observed as a public holiday in many nations, perhaps to round off the long weekend that begins on Good Friday. In London there is a big Easter parade in Hyde Park on this day.
A curious English tradition associated at one time with Easter Monday involved "lifting" or "heaving." Forming what children call a "chair" by crossing hands and grasping another person's wrists, the men would lift the women on Easter Monday—sometimes carrying them for a short distance down the street or to the village green—and on Easter Tuesday the women would lift the men. A similar retaliatory game involved taking off each other's shoes. This is thought to have a connection with the resurrection of Christ. Polish children play smigus, a water-throwing game.
AmerBkDays-2000, p. 242
BkFest-1937, pp. 16, 57, 261
DictDays-1988, pp. 8, 11, 35, 55, 56, 122
EncyEaster-2002, p. 122
FestSaintDays-1915, p. 91
OxYear-1999, p. 625

Celebrated in: Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Cote d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, England and Wales, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Gibraltar, Greece, Grenada, Guinea, Guyana, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Latvia, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Monaco, Namibia, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Nigeria, Niue, Northern Ireland, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Republic of Georgia, Republic of Kosovo, Rwanda, Samoa, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, Ukraine, Vanuatu, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Easter Monday (Netherlands)
Between March 23 and April 26; Monday after Easter
Easter Monday, or Paasch Maandag, is celebrated in the Netherlands with games played with Easter eggs. Eierrapen, or hunting for eggs, is a favorite pastime among younger children. Eiertikken, or hitting hard-boiled eggs together, is a sport for children of all ages. In rural areas, the eggs are still dyed with coffee grounds, beet juice, onion skins, and other vegetable substances. Then they're packed in baskets and carried to an open field for the eiertikken contest. At a given signal, the children line up and try to break the shell of an opposing team member's egg (the two eggs must be the same color) by knocking them together. The winner keeps the opponent's egg, and the boy or girl who collects the most eggs wins.
Another Easter game, which was popular in the 16th and 17th centuries and was still played in the 20th, is called the eiergaren. Played by both children and adults who assemble in the main streets of villages on Easter Monday, the game involves a tub of water with a huge apple floating in it. The tub is placed in the middle of the road and 25 eggs are placed at intervals of about 12 feet along the same road. One person must eat the apple with his hands tied behind his back while a second contestant has to run and gather up all the eggs in a basket before the apple is eaten. Whoever finishes his or her task first is the victor.
BkFest-1937, p. 242
EncyEaster-2002, p. 123
FestWestEur-1958, p. 131

Celebrated in: Netherlands

Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.
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