/> a mother's heart » Blog Archive » happy paczki day!

Okay, those of you without a Michigan-background and/or a lack of knowledge of Polish are saying, “happy packzee day?! what the heck is THAT?” The right pronunciation is “poonch-key,” and only Polish could have a word that looks like “paczki” and is pronounced entirely differently. 😉

But here, it’s a big deal. It’s the Polish way of celebrating Fat Tuesday, or the day before the start of Lent. Paczkis are very rich filled donuts that are sold the few days before today and not after today. And so, pondering some of the traditions of pre-Lenten ‘celebrations,’ I thought I’d share a little bit of history with you. Yes, we did buy a half-dozen Paczkis–those in the greater Lexington area can find paczkis in the bakery-area of Meijer. Once you have one, you won’t go back–you’ll look forward to them every year. :)

Paczkis and other baked delicacies began as a way to use up “forbidden foods” prior to Lent. Apparently, long ago, sugar, flour, and fat were not permitted to be consumed during the Lenten season as a way of denying oneself and reminding oneself of the Sacrifice Jesus made (the height of the Lenten Season–Good Friday). I was not raised Catholic and so I grew up with the knowledge that meat was verboten during Lent (at least on Fridays), but not knowing anything about the other traditions of Lent.
Unlike the idea of debauchery and excess (or “pleasure,” as one person in New Orleans said this morning on the radio) of the traditional Mardi Gras celebration, this is/was a day of preparation for Ash Wednesday and removing things from homes and kitchens that would otherwise derail a somber Lenten observation. Its an interesting comparison between the sometimes-obscene excesses of the New Orleans celebration (and whatever Epicurian practices made their way in to the French and Cajun cultures down there) and the practices of observant Polish Catholics up here. More than anything, I can certainly learn more from the contemplative preparation of the Polish traditions than I can from what we tend to think of as Mardi Gras.

As a history-buff, I find this all very interesting. The way Catholicism is practiced in different cultures is interesting, as is the way a culture collectively observes a religious season. Happy paczki day–impress your friends with these small bits of useless information and your newly-found correct Polish pronunciation! 😉.

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