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Polish Pączki Day on Fat Thursday

I’ve never celebrated it, but apparently there is a Polish tradition called Pączki Day (pronounced POONCH-key) that is celebrated on Fat Thursday (the Thursday before Lent … which would have been last Thursday).  In the spirit of Fat Tuesday, people eat a lot of pączki before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday.

A pączek (singular) is a deep-fried piece of dough shaped into a flattened sphere and filled with confiture or other sweet filling. Pączki are usually covered with powdered sugar, icing or bits of dried orange zest. Although they look like  jelly doughnuts, pączki are made from especially rich dough containing eggs, fats, sugar and sometimes milk. They feature a variety of fruit and creme fillings and can be glazed, or covered with granulated or powdered sugar. Powidła (stewed plum jam) and wild rose hip jam are traditional fillings, but many others are used as well, including strawberry, Bavarian cream, blueberry, custard, raspberry and apple.

Pączki have been known in Poland at least since the Middle Ages. Jędrzej Kitowicz has described that during the reign of August III, under the influence of French cooks who came to Poland, pączki dough was improved, so that pączki became lighter, spongier, and more resilient.

Many Polish Americans celebrate Pączki Day on Fat Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday). Traditionally, the reason for making pączki was to use up all the lard, sugar, eggs and fruit in the house, because they were forbidden to be consumed due to Catholic fasting practices during Lent.

A great news report on Pączki Day in Hamtramck, MI.

In the large Polish community of Chicago, and other large cities across the Midwest, Pączki Day is celebrated annually by immigrants and locals alike. In Buffalo, Toledo, Cleveland, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Milwaukee, South Bend, and Windsor, Pączki Day is more commonly celebrated on Fat Tuesday instead of Fat Thursday. Chicago celebrates the festival on both Fat Thursday and Fat Tuesday, due to its sizable Polish population.

In Hamtramck, Michigan, an enclave of Detroit, there is an annual Pączki Day (Shrove Tuesday) Parade, which has gained a devoted following. In the greater Cleveland, Ohio area, it it wide spread through out the region, that many bakeries have people that will wait in lines for pączki on Pączki Day. The Pączki Day celebrations in some areas are even larger than many celebrations for St. Patrick’s Day.

[A “more Polish” perspective with a nice photo blog.]

I wish I knew this a couple days ago … I would have bought donuts.

  1. dadcooks
    February 26, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    I never knew about this. But it’s wonderful! Many customs come from religious beliefs or ceremonies — and the faithful take into their daily lives by bringing onto the table.. dinner, or breakfast. Food – Christ feeds us this way – with family and gospel… but always with Love.

  2. February 27, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Amen.

  3. February 12, 2016 at 6:35 am

    feeling nostalgic

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