Tradition is sacred and who are we to disregard tradition? On Fat Thursday (Tłusty Czwartek) the tradition dictates that we feast… on pączki! Not that there needs to be a reason to eat pączki but here are some interesting facts about the holiday.
Fat Thursday is a Christian feast celebrated last Thursday before Lent and since the latter marks a time of reflection, self-denial, penance, the next opportunity to feast will be Easter. That’s almost six weeks away!
In Poland, Fat Thursday is usually celebrated by eating pączki or chrust (faworki, or simply; angel wings). This allowed the household to use up their stock of sugar, lard, fruit and eggs since those were forbidden during lent.
These days, pączki are usually filled with rose or plum jam, and sometimes lemon, custard and other fruits covered with powdered sugar or icing. Yummy! (or if you prefer the Polish: mniam!).
For the meat lovers, it might be interesting that “back-in-the-day,” people filled pączki with bacon, meat and fatback (słonina) and chased them with vodka.
Kraków celebrated Fat Thursday in their own way. According to folklore, there was a misogynist mayor in Kraków named Comber (c=ts) who particularly mistreated (women) peddlers by beating them, swearing at them and even jailing them. When he died on Fat Thursday, people rejoiced, danced and drank saying Comber croaked: zdechł Comber.
Since then, on Fat Thursday, women dressed-up (and were buzzed more often than not), entered town at dawn (buzzed at dawn?!) and carried a effigy (named Comber) representing a man. During the game, women jumped at the effigy and ripped it apart. Once they reached the main square, they chased bachelors and if they stopped a courtier in a carriage, he had to ransom himself. They demanded a kiss from the particularly handsome but the ugly and poor bachelors were tied to a large wooden block. After a few hours of hunting and torture, dancing and drinking began.
To approach pączki from a different perspective: it is always wise to cut them. Why? Because in 1924, Polish mathematicians Alfred Tarski and Stefan Banach published a paper which proved that a 3-dimensional spherical object can be cut in such a way that it can be put back together to make TWO identical copies! Leave it to the Poles to create two pączki out of one!
Time to feast.