On Fat Thursday, you can eat pączki (or faworki or other delicacies). If we don’t do this, we will face misfortune for the following year – one of the superstitions associated with this holiday says.
Currently, we limit ourselves to eating pączki or faworki on Fat Thursday. In the past, Fat Thursday and the last days of Carnival were celebrated with loud parties and absolute gluttony, often accompanied by drunkenness. This is evidenced by the words of the Calvinist writer and preacher Grzegorz of Żarnowiec: “We make more profit for the devil by forgiving meat for three days than for God by forty days of unwilling fasting.”
Some sources say that the beginnings of Fat Thursday in Poland date back to the 16th century; others say it dates only to the 19th century. The first version is associated with an interesting legend.
This legend is associated with a cruel mayor of Krakow named Combr. The mayor imposed a toll on the women who traded in the market square that when he died (on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday), the traders, instead of bursting into tears, organized a party of drinking and dancing, shouting that Combr had died. They accosted men passing through the market square, forcing them to dance and give away their outer clothes – for the wrongs they had suffered from Combra. Krakow’s traders, out of joy at being free from the cruel man, decided to celebrate the anniversary of his death on Fat Thursday, and the party was called “women’s comber” (this name is still used in southern Poland).
It is difficult to say whether there was a cruel mayor, Combr. Indeed, women’s commemoration has been celebrated in Krakow since the Middle Ages. It is also difficult to say whether we owe it to the vendors that we eat faworki and pączki that day. It is also difficult to say where this custom came from in Poland. Fatty-baked goods appeared on Polish tables on various occasions, including funerals.
Fat Thursday is a holiday whose origins may date back to pagan times, when at the end of winter and the approach of spring, fatty foods were eaten – large amounts of meat and drunk with sweet wine.
The history of pączki, according to one theory, dates back to ancient times and ancient Rome, during the celebration of the transition from winter to spring. People had fun and feasted, and pączki made of bread dough and stuffed with bacon or bacon were eaten. According to another story, it was the Egyptians who ate richly sweetened fat balls that came from Arabic cuisine. In the Middle Ages (only supposedly), pączki, made of yeast dough, appeared and was prepared by monks.
According to a more reliable source, the Brockhaus Encyclopedia (first edition 1796), pączki are a German and South Austrian specialty. In the old Polish tradition, pączki initially took the form of bread dough fried in lard, stuffed with bacon, or sprinkled with cracklings.
The date of Fat Thursday is flexible and depends on Easter. Most often, this day falls between January 29 and March 4. In 2024, Fat Thursday falls on February 8. On this day, the last week of carnival begins, which ends on Tuesday, just before Ash Wednesday.
In the United States, Pączki Day is traditionally observed before Ash Wednesday, but in Poland, it is Thursday before Ash Wednesday.