Fat Thursday takes place on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday in February, right before the 40-day period of Lent, and will be celebrated on February 16 this year. And yes, it’s exactly what you may be thinking — it’s a time to indulge. As the lean season of Lent draws near, food becomes central to many peoples’ thoughts. There’s nothing like a fast to get us all thinking about food; especially those forbidden treats loaded with calorific goodness. If donuts were the first thing that came to mind, then you’re right on track because this holiday, originating in Poland, is about stuffing your face with Polish donuts, known as ‘pączki’, and a few other exotically named sweet treats.
History of Fat Thursday
Though the exact origin of how this holiday came to be founded is unknown, the Polish tradition of consuming donuts is very much known, and dates as far back as the 1500s. On the religious side of things, Fat Thursday is the last hurrah before the fasting period of Lent, wherein devout Catholics give up many indulgences in the 40 days leading up to Easter. Traditionally, Catholics will not eat meat or consume alcohol during this period, as the idea is to give up things that one loves, in order to focus on the meaning of Easter.
Fat Thursday is known as ‘Tłusty Czwartek’ in Poland and for those who are in doubt, the ‘fat’ part of the name refers to the fried sugary goodness of the different types of ‘pączki’ (pronounced poonch-key) consumed by Poles all over the country. The most traditional form of ‘pączki’ is a light, fluffy donut filled with rosehip jam and dusted with powdered sugar. However, there are many variations now, when it comes to the filling. Essentially, this day serves a dual purpose, as it allows Poles to indulge guilt-free in their favorite confectionery, while also carrying a religious meaning. Some even refer to the day as International Polish Donut Day, and the average Pole will eat around 2-3 donuts on this day, which translates to about 1050 calories (if you’re counting, but we’re not)! If the thought of consuming so many donuts scares you, the recommendation is to eat at least one, because not eating a donut on this day means bad luck for the rest of the year, according to Polish tradition.
Another traditional Polish dessert that is extremely popular on this day is ‘faworki’, in some places, also known as Angel Wings. ‘Faworki’ are thin dough ribbons, fried until crispy and sprinkled with powdered sugar.
Fat Thursday timeline
The Dutch begin making “olykoeks,” which translate to oily cakes — cake balls fried in pig fat, often with uncooked centers.
An American ship captain, Hansen Gregory, punches a hole in the dough cakes to help them cook evenly.
Russian Jew, Adolph Levitt, creates the first automated donut machine.
In an attempt to make the association of ‘pączki’ to Fat Thursday inseparable, the National Pączki Committee launches several campaigns.
Fat Thursday FAQs
What is the difference between Fat Thursday and Fat Tuesday?
Fat Tuesday is the day before the start of Lent in the Catholic religion, Ash Wednesday. Fat Tuesday is also the same day that Mardi Gras is celebrated. In Poland, Paczki Day is more commonly celebrated on Fat Thursday, otherwise known as Tlusty Czwartek. Fat Thursday is the Thursday before Ash Wednesday.
Which countries celebrate Fat Thursday?
Germany, Greece, Spain, Denmark, Norway, and Iceland all celebrate their own versions of Fat Thursday, in different ways and under different names.
How do people celebrate Fat Thursday?
The best way to do so is to follow in the footsteps of the Poles and rush to your nearest Polish bakery, or donut store. Make sure you eat at least one stuffed donut so that your year can be free of bad luck.
Fat Thursday Activities
Find a Polish bakery
In the spirit of authenticity, find the nearest Polish-run bakery and prepare to stand in line as Fat Thursday dawns. In Poland, the bakery lines are so long that they can run around the block.
Try your hand at making ‘pączki’
If you feel up to the challenge, get your apron on and create your own pączki, with whatever variation of fillings you’d like. We do suggest you find a recipe from an authentic Polish baking blog though. If the challenge is too much, there are many simple donut recipes too; including baked donuts and ones without yeast.
Feast with the family
Though in America this is often celebrated as Fat Tuesday, break the norm, and prepare a feast for the family, with a Polish theme. We recommend a bit of reading up on other Polish delicacies and making the most of this day of feasting.
5 Fat Thursday Traditions From Around The World
Known as ‘Weiberfastnacht,’ or Silly Thursday, this celebration is in the true carnival spirit — businesses shut at 11:11 am and people dress up and take to the streets to frolic and eat.
Greek Fat Thursday is also known as ‘Tsiknopempti’ and carnivores can rejoice because it’s all about meat.
In Catalonia, it’s known as ‘Dijous Gra’s,’ and the carnival period is kick-started with dancing, live orchestras, and fatty street foods like ‘botifarra’ sausages and sweet cakes.
Known as ‘Giovedi Grasso’, it’s celebrated with masked balls, buffets, and revelry of every kind.
Known as ‘Bulludagur,’ it roughly translates to ‘bun day’ and is celebrated on the Sunday and Monday before Lent — the specialty of the day is sweet cream buns, filled with jam and topped with chocolate.
Why We Love Fat Thursday
Sweet tooths everywhere rejoice
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Donuts are almost universally loved, in whatever shape or form they take, and to have an entire day dedicated to indulging one’s sweet tooth is good news indeed.
A celebration of food
Food, glorious food! We love to celebrate food holidays and there is nothing like food when it brings people together. So, let the feasting begin, wherever you are. And if donuts are not your thing, there are plenty of other treats to hit the spot.
Polish culture in the spotlight
Since Fat Thursday originated in Poland, it’s a great opportunity to learn about a different country. Be it the history, the culture, or the traditions — different cultures are always worth learning more about to foster respect and appreciation.
Fat Thursday dates