Pazcki Day: A Lenten Celebration of Identity

Paczki Day

Figure 1. Map of Poland .



 Paczki Day is a Polish Easter celebration on the Polish Fat Thursday in preparation for Lent. A Paczki is a jelly filled bun and was originally made to consume all perishable food items before the forty day fast. The Poles have always had a strong Catholic background and it has helped them through times of annexation and unstable governments. Celebrations such as Paczki Day bond individuals together and promote a solid social structure. It is still a recognized holiday in Poland and has been slowly spreading to the United States where it is celebrated on Fat Tuesday.



Figure 2. A holocaust memorial site in Poland, many visit each year to remember the Nazi Invasion. http://www.

Figure 3. Pazcki baked during Lenten celebrations.


 Catholicism has had major influence on the lives of those living in Poland since the first Polish state. This deep commitment to the church has guided through times of war and hostile take over. Easter holds the most value to Poles above any other Christian holiday and I believe their faith has led to a revitalization movement and created a sense of community within their culture.


Context of Poland

  Poland is situated east of Germany , in the center of the European continent and consists of mostly lowlands with a southern mountain range ( Poland : 2004). Poland 's climate is divided between east and west. In the east, Poland experiences high humidity and fairly cool summers; while the west will see more moderate conditions of the marine west coast. (Encarta: 2004)

  The name Polksa ( Poland ) comes from the Slavic word Polanie meaning field dwellers who settled in the area. Since the first Polish state in the late 10 th century, Poland has undergone leadership changes, wars, and political dissections which have divided the nation's people. One of the most defining ages in Polish history was during the 18 th century when Prussia , Austria and Russia annexed Poland . Due to the frailty of the nation, Russia soon returned to power. By 1861, the country of Poland had dissolved until they were officially given land in World War One. However, most of the land Poland was given had belonged to Ukrainians and Belorussians and there were cultrual differences that caused these nations to disagree. Tension the weka nation in the 20th century. The final and most remembered encroachment was that of the Germans in World War Two (see Figure 2). Again, parts of the country were annexed between Germany and the Soviet Union , further dividing the nation's people. Included in this time are the Warsaw Uprising in 1943 and the capture of Polish Jews by the Nazis (Encarta: 2004). The name was given early in the 11 th century and greatly influenced Europe until the 18 th century when partitioning began between surrounding nations.


Origins of Paczki Day

 Paczki (pronounced: Punch-key) Day is named after jelly-filled buns called Paczki. The celebration takes place the day before fasting begins, Tlosky Czwartek (Fat Thursday) Catholics everywhere are preparing for forty days of fasting, called Lent (Baluch: 2003). This tradition began so families wouldn't waste perishable foods during the season. Bakers combined dough, sugar, and flavored jellies to create Paczki (see Figure 3). In early Poland , lavish balls and dances were held in wealthy homes and other foods such as kielbasa z kapusta (sausage and cabbage) were eaten. It is not surprising that these festitivites were occurring in wealthy areas because Lenten celebrations are based on Mardi Gras and Carnival.



  Families attend church together along with fellow community members. Following the mass, families return home and prepare Paczki and other tradtional foods. The name Fat Thursday is taken very literally and many families will prepare whatever left over food they have and finish it that day. As lives become busier, more and more people now rely on bakeries to provide the jelly-filled treat. Poles flood the doors of local bakeries to buy Paczki in a variety of flavors. This also occurs in American cities with a high Polish descent rate such as the Great Lakes Area. Figure 4 shows a bakery in Detroit on Pazcki Day.



Figure 4. Bakery in Detroit, Michigan on Paczki Day. Photo by: Michael Sarnacki




Prognosis for Paczki Day

 Some scholars suggest the importance of Packzi Day is no longer admired. This seems to be the case in Poland where sovereignty and holiness are being overshadowed by lavish decorations, fashions and food (Strybel: 2002). However, culture is constantly changing in bold directions and when directions change, symbolism will as well. Poles are merely molding an age old tradition to fit a modern lifestyle. In Poland, Easter holds greater significance than Christmas. Due to this, the festivities rival a Western Christmas celebration. Included in this celebration is media attention and as Westerners are seemingly obsessed with Christmas, one article suggests this is becoming a trend in Poland as well. Easter is slowly being replaced by the Western marketing techniques for Christmas (Strybel: 2002). On a high note, Paczkis have been gaining popularity in the United States despite the introduction of low-carb diets! The Oakland Press interviewed a small bakery owner in Michigan who baked 600 paczkis for the 2004 Paczki Day, selling 100 more than last year ( Groves : 2004.) Paczki Day will always be an important holiday to Poles, despite The Western influence of Christmas because it is rooted so deeply in their lifestyle.



 For hundreds of years, Poles have been fighting to save their identity. The people created a culture based on their struggles and have used their rich Catholic heritage to sustain them. Like many revitalization movements, Paczki Day is the celebration of not only Easter but of the Polish culture. Perseverance brought Poles to America spread their belief further. While Paczki Day has become more of an “anti-diet” period for Americans, stories about the paczki are still passed down through generations. It is still a very important celebration in Polish and Polish- American culture. Interviews with Polish family members, lead me to believe that the traditions of Paczki Day will not wilt in the presence of the media, as some suggest. The Polish people have fought against tyranny and divisions, and while the media is a powerful giant, the people will not let it stop traditions.



Internet References Cited

  • Groves , Dave

      2004 February 24. Low-Carb Craze Can't Curb Tradition. In The Daily Oakland Press.

    This is a daily newspaper site with a story regarding Paczkis.

  • Strybel, Robert

      2002. Easter: Trendy or Traditional? In The Summit Times . Vol. 9, Issue No. 26

      This is a daily newspaper site with a story about what Easter has become in Poland .

  • 2004 Poland Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia

    This is an online encyclopedia site.

  • 2004 Pazcki Day. Polish American Journal. Boston .

    This site is an online magazine, also in print. It targets Polish-Americans and writes about Polish culture.


Peer-Reviewed References Cited


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