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Imagine Christmas without Santa Claus, Groundhog Day without the groundhog, Dyngus Day without pussy willows.

It could happen.

This winter’s unusually cold temperatures and long, deep freezes could put the fuzzy-budded branches in short supply this year, putting a damper on the traditional Polish-American celebration, scheduled for April 21 this year.

“Naturally, they’re a little bit behind simply because, well, you’ve gone through the winter, you know what it’s been like,” said John Farfaglia, horticulture educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension. “We’ve had so many days below 10 degrees that a lot of these plants that usually come out in early spring are a little bit behind.”

This isn’t the first time Dyngus Day has been threatened with a pussy willow shortage. In 2012, revelers were warned to harvest their branches early, before an unseasonable heat wave could do them in.

Pussy willows grow as trees or shrubs, depending on how they’re pruned. They’re typically early bloomers, signifying one of the earliest signs of spring.

Local florists usually get them from small farmers dotting the map from Niagara to Chautauqua counties, but one local supplier said she might have to tap a connection in the Carolinas this year.

Another florist said she will probably be able to force the pussy willows to bloom early but said the farmers might charge more for them if they have to fight bad harvesting conditions. That could have an effect on their usual retail price of about $3 per bunch.

Celebrated the Monday after Easter, Dyngus Day toasts the end of Lent. Revelers feast, drink and dance, celebrating Polish culture and welcoming spring. In something of a traditional Polish-American mating ritual, males and females switch each other with pussy willows and squirt each other with water guns.

Daria Parker, who has sold pussy willows at Lewandowski Produce in the Broadway Market for 26 years, said there may be hope yet for an abundant pussy willow crop.

“We’re hoping that, since it’s a late Easter, they’ll pull through,” Parker said.

Though it may not be the same, Dyngus Day diehards said they will continue to party whether the traditional props are ready or not.

“Dyngus Day will go on with or without pussy willows because Dyngus Day is really a state of mind,” said Eddy Dobosiewicz, a co-founder of Dyngus Day Buffalo. “We’ve experienced everything from brilliant sunshine to sleet and snow. Nothing will stop Buffalonians from celebrating their annual springtime ritual.”

email: schristmann@buffnews.com