Happy Pączki Day!

Today is Fat Tuesday (or Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras). Today marks the last day of the Carnival season and the day before Ash Wednesday kicks off Lent.

Unfortunately, in Mormonism, we don’t really do any of those things. In part, I suspect that it’s because of their Catholic roots, and the fact that Catholics were basically non-existent in the milieu from which Mormonism emerged. Or maybe it’s because of our impoverished liturgical calendar. Or maybe it’s because we hate costumes, masks and parties. Whatever the reason, though, there is no distinctive Mormon Fat Tuesday celebration.

Which is why my family and I have whole-heartedly adopted Chicago’s version of Fat Tuesday: Pączki Day.[fn1]

Before I get too deep into pączki, it’s worth a quick note on Fat Tuesday; while the precise history is not entirely clear, part of the point of Fat Tuesday is to use up your eggs, milk, butter, and fat. In the past, the Lenten season required Catholics to give up meat and meat-related products. And eggs, milk, butter, and fat don’t store well over~46 days. Instead of throwing them out, then, a family would use them to make one last rich meal before the fast began.[fn2]

So what is a pączki? It’s a type of Polish filled donut. As I understand it,[fn3] in Poland, they’re eaten on Fat Thursday, but when Polish immigrants came to the U.S., their tradition merged with our Fat Tuesday, and now, in much of the Midwest, we celebrate today by preordering and eating pączki.[fn4]

Pączki Day is a big deal here: even Sue recognizes its centrality to Chicago’s liturgical calendar:

Pączki are delicious (the drunken plum jam one I had last night was absolutely to die for), but if they’re not available in your neck of the woods, you can always try to make your own. Or just find the best filled donuts in your neighborhood (and plan to come to Chicago next Fat Tuesday!).

On Twitter, BCC is preparing to celebrate Lent, and is soliciting ideas for what to sacrifice during the Lenten season. And I think that’s a wonderful idea. But along with a Lenten fast to prepare ourselves for Easter and the risen Lord, let’s celebrate Fat Tuesday, and enjoy the delicious world we’ve been blessed with. And also, pączki.

[fn1] BTW, how do you pronounce it? If you’re me, you pronounce it wrong.

[fn2] Which is why England celebrates today as Pancake Day: pancakes are basically eggs, butter, milk, and flour.

[fn3] (from Wikipedia)

[fn4] And we take it very seriously: you can find plenty of articles about the best place to get them in Chicago. We always order ours from Dinkles, but yesterday we had family in town, so we treated them to some from Firecakes, and a friend from out of town got some from Stan’s.


  1. In my Polish family, it’s poonch key.

  2. nobody, really says:

    One year, while working with a bunch of really nice, observant Catholics, I gave up personal internet usage at work before 2 PM. I was blessed with vastly increased productivity.

  3. Kevin Barney says:

    I’ve already eaten mine!

  4. What the heck is a “Polished filled donut”? Do they buff it or what?

  5. Thanks, Wally. Typo fixed.

  6. Always ready to learn about pastries. From elsewhere on the net:
    “It’s important to note that pączki aren’t just jelly filled doughnuts. In fact, what sets them apart is their dough, which is a rich, sweet yeast dough consisting of eggs, butter and milk.”
    “It’s pronounced poonch-kee and there [sic] hard to find in Albuquerque.”
    “Pączki is pronounced PAWNCH-key and is the plural form of the word (really the only one you need, since you can’t eat just one, right?). Pączek, on the other hand is pronounced PAWN-check and refers to just one lonely Polish-style confection.”
    Don’t let them be lonely.

  7. Thanks, JR! They’re delicious even without knowing the details of how they differ from other filled donuts, but I’m also always ready to learn more about pastries!

  8. Found some. They were good! They were not lonely.
    I still pronounce it wrong.

  9. here in the Uk, we have just had our pancakes traditionally with Lyle’s golden syrup and also with non-trad ice cream

  10. Ann Porter says:

    Left Field and I finished off yesterday a Raspberry/Cream Cheese filled king cake from Marguerite’s. King cake season ran long this year – it starts on 12th night and ends on Mardi Gras, which is late this year. We are all ready for a brief rest in advance of St. Patrick’s Day, St. Joseph’s Day, and peak crawfish season. It’s cute how y’all want to be us.

  11. As someone of Polish descent from Chicago i do hereby endorse this post.

  12. The equivalent here is Fassnachts, but we gave up trying to participate in the local tradition since they’ve been uniformly mediocre. It’s too bad, since who wouldn’t want to participate in a holiday so closely connected to donuts.

  13. Packzi day rocks. Another Chicagoan here and we’ve adopted this tradition in our home as well. The local ethnic Italian grocery brings in massive boxes of them from a Polish bakery fresh daily and they’ve rapidly disappeared every morning for the last 4 days since some people start eating them on Friday before Fat Tuesday.

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