Paczki Day, celebrated the day before Ash Wednesday, is the perfect excuse (as if we needed one) to eat the famous and delicious Polish pastry. Similar to a donut, Paczki are a sugary pastry that combines glossy doughs with a delicious fruit filling. They’re known as a dessert that gets more-or-less splurged around lent, but Paczki Day isn’t just about the pastries alone. Let’s learn what makes this day so special.
History of Paczki Day
To most Polish Americans, Paczki Day means making a ton of Paczki and binge-eating them in the company of family and friends. This day is celebrated before Lent. Since Lent is a time of sacrifice, Paczki were created to use up a household’s supplies of things that the family wouldn’t be able to eat during Lenten fasting. This included lard, sugar, eggs, and more. It was basically a day for people to fill up on all the goodness they’d have to give up for the next month.
In America, Paczki Day is celebrated the day before Ash Wednesday (also known as Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras). However, in Poland Paczki were made and purchased the most on Fat Thursday, which is Thursday before Ash Wednesday. Paczki Day is also celebrated on Fat Thursday in some cultures because it marks the start of the final week before Lent. But either way, a lot of Paczki are made and enjoyed by many Polish people on either day.
This tradition is unique since it dates back to at least the Middle Ages. That means Paczki recipes have been around for a long time. But, just like traditions themselves, the recipes have evolved as time has gone on. Modern versions of paczki are filled with custard or cream, and some are even covered with glaze or sprinkles. Some well-known modern flavors include lemon, Nutella, and strawberry.
Paczki Day timeline
Purple, green, and gold become the Mardi Gras colors
This is because Grand Duke Alexis’ welcoming committee handed out purple, green, and gold beads to party-goers that year.
A secret society makes Mardi Gras popular again
Before this date, it was banned due to destructive, drunken parties. A secret society, Mistik Krewe started to celebrate with balls and parades, making Fat Tuesday popular.
The first Fat Tuesday celebration in North America
Mardi Gras (French for Fat Tuesday) was celebrated in Alabama when French-Canadian explorer Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville arrived.
- Middle ages
Paczki are created
When the King of Poland brought in French chefs to make pastries for Shrove Week.
Paczki Day FAQs
Why do we eat paczki on Fat Tuesday?
It’s a pre-Lenten tradition. Paczki were created from all the ingredients that Polish families needed to eat before they began fasting.
What is the difference between donuts and paczki?
Paczki are much richer in flavor, consisting of sweet yeast dough, eggs, butter, and milk.
What is the correct pronunciation of Paczki?
In native Poland, paczki is pronounced like “pownch-key.”
How to celebrate
Learn how to make Paczki!
When it comes to days about food, the best way to celebrate is to try it yourself. Whether you’re Polish or not, and whether you participate in Lent or not, you can still enjoy the delicious taste of paczki. Besides, it’s fun to learn a new recipe.
Share it with your loved ones
Just like the regular tradition, Paczki Day is meant to be celebrated with friends and family. If you want a taste of the true Paczki Day experience, you should enjoy paczki with people you care about.
Find a local Paczki Day event to attend
Especially if you live near or in a city, you’ll definitely be able to find a Paczki Day event to attend. Many bakeries will sell these treats around the time of Paczki Day, and European markets will definitely have something special going on. Round up your friends and hit up your local Paczki Day event to get the true experience.
5 Facts About Paczki
Paczki is actually the plural form of the word
The singular form is paczek, whereas paczki is more than one.
Paczki have roots dating back all the way to the middle ages
Originally, they were filled with pork and lard.
The traditional paczki filling is called powidla
This is commonly known as stewed plum jam, and it was mixed with wild rosehip jam
They were born from forbidden foods
Lard, sugar, eggs, and fruit were all forbidden during Catholic Lenten fasting--all paczki main ingredients.
Alcohol is used in the recipe
It was traditionally Spiritus that was added to the dough before cooking to prevent oil from being absorbed into the dough.
Why We Love Paczki Day
They’re rooted deep in history
Not only are they delicious, but paczki have such a unique cultural and religious history that makes them stand out. Knowing they’ve been around since the middle ages and seeing how recipes have changed is very cool. Besides, for a dessert to have an entire day dedicated to eating them must mean they’re pretty special.
They bring people together
As we said, Paczki Day is all about eating these delicious treats with your loved ones before Lenten fasting. It’s awesome that one dessert can be part of a reason that families come together to enjoy each other’s company.
There are so many different kinds to try
The awesome thing about paczki is that there isn’t just one type. As the original recipe has changed so much since it was invented years ago, each paczki from every baker will be unique, meaning each offers its own experience. From lemon, apple, blueberry, raspberry, Bavarian cream, and many others, there are so many paczki recipes and flavors to try.
Paczki Day dates