Pączki Day celebrates pączki, which are filled Polish doughnuts. They are made of deep-fried dough, which consists of eggs, fats, sugar, yeast, and sometimes milk. Fillings often include fruit or cream. Two traditional fillings are powidl and rose hip jam. They are often covered with powdered sugar, glaze, icing, or dried orange zest.
Pączki have been eaten in Poland since at least the Middle Ages. The singular word for them is pączek, but most English speakers use "pączki" for both singular and plural. In English the word is often pronounced as PUUNCH-kee, PUUNSH-kee, PUNCH-kee or PAWNCH-kee—the last of which is closest to the Polish pronunciation. In Poland they are often eaten on Fat Thursday, the last Thursday before Ash Wednesday. Pączki were traditionally made at this time to use up foods that were forbidden from being eaten during Lent, such as lard, sugar, eggs, and fruit.
Pączki Day is celebrated in North America, especially in cities with large Polish communities, such as Chicago and Detroit, and other large cities in the Northeast and Midwest. It takes place on the same date as, and as part of, the other pre-Lenten traditions of Fat Tuesday and International Pancake Day. In some cities the day is so popular that people stand in long lines for pączki, and there are parades and pączki eating contests.
How to Observe Pączki Day
Celebrate the day by eating pączki! Go to a bakery and pick up an assortment with different fillings, or try to make your own. If you live in a bigger city, check to see if there are any parades or pączki eating contests.