Where do Fat Thursday and Fat Tuesday come from?

Poland, the UK and the USA are among countries which can boast about their rich traditions related to saying goodbye to carnival. Nowadays, it’s mostly about food and partying but the origin of these celebrations is religious. In older days the transition period between the joy and festivities of Christmas and the fasting period of Lent had more meaning for the Christians. Even one of the English names of Fat Tuesday – Shrove Tuesday has an obvious religious connotation. To shrive is to confess, to say your sins and also for a priest to free you from your sins, to absolve. So, this last day before Lent was the day to summarize your spiritual situation. Also, it was the last day before a 40-day- long period of fasting, hence the last opportunity to eat all ‘rich’ food products which have been left in your house.

Fat Thursday, Fat Tuesday – date and celebrations

February (or March) marks the beginning of the Christian period of Lent.  This year Ash Wednesday is on 26 February, so Fat Thursday falls on 20 February and Fat  Tuesday  is on 25 February. A lot of countries observe these ‘two fat days’ by preparing special desserts.

The celebrations of Fat Tuesday (which is also called a Pancake Day in the UK) and Fat Thursday have still got religious significance (more in Poland than in the UK), but many people treat it merely as an opportunity to have fun and eat something exqusitely delicious. However, the carnival ending celebrations are very common in both English-speaking countries and Poland, so let’s take a look at the most popular pastry of the days.

When you say Poland I say PĄCZEK

Fat Thursday (Tłusty Czwartek) and Fat Tuesday (Ostatki) are widely observed in Poland. People eat tons of pączki (Polish doughnuts) – they either prepare them themselves or buy at the stores – everyone needs to eat at least one.

Pączek is a round piece of pastry, flattened on two sides. Unlike English and American doughnuts, Polish pączki don’t have a hole in them. The dough is made of flour, yeast, sugar, vanilla sugar, milk, egg yolks and eggs, oil and vodka/spirit. Pączki can have various fillings, however the most popular one is rose petal marmalade. You can sprinkle these delicacies with icing sugar or pour some icing on top. They are absolutely phenomenal! They’re a must for every fan of pastry!

Another hit Fat Thursday pastry in Poland is faworki/chrust (angel wings). They are thin and light pieces of twisted dough. To make them you need: flour, sour cream, butter, egg yolks, salt, spirit/vodka, icing sugar. They’re delicious!

The UK and the pancake festivals

In the UK, the last tuesday before the Ash Wednesday is called the Pancake Tuesday/Pancake Day. It’s because pancakes are unquestionable heroes of the day. They are not only eaten, but also variuos competitions with pancakes take place on that day e.g. pancake races are organised throughout the whole country. The competitors hold frying pans with pancakes in them and run as fast as they can without letting the pancakes fall on the ground. Sounds like fun!

To make pancakes get some flour, eggs, milk, oil and salt.

Mardi Gras in New Orleans, USA

There is one American city especially associated with Fat Tuesday. It’s New Orleans and they call the day Mardi Gras. There are celebrations in the streets with parades, parties and food. The most popular dessert is the King Cake. It’s a round-shaped cake with rich fiiling. It’s got a hole inside. The cake is made of: flour, water, butter, milk, eggs, yeast, sugar, nutmeg. The fillings can be various, including cinnamon and raisings. Every king cake should bear three colours: purple, green and gold and there’s a little plastic baby inside! If you have the baby in your piece of cake, it means you have to organize the next year’s Mardi Gras party. The baby might symbolise the baby Jesus as King Cakes are also baked on the Epiphany (6 January).  Traditionally, it’s the day commemorating the visit of the three wise men to the newborn baby Jesus.

What about you? How many pączki are you going to eat this Fat Thursday? Or maybe your’re going to bake the King Cake this Fat Tuesday? Why not? Whichever you choose, enjoy your meal!

Autor: Honorata Turczyn