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A box of pączki. Breana Noble | Col­legian

 

Fat Tuesday in Michigan is just that with pączki.

Packed with sugar, butter, and lard, these Polish “packages” are special doughnuts stuffed with cream or fruit. At this time of year, bak­eries mostly in the Midwest sell the pas­tries, a tra­dition born from the large number of Polish immi­grants who came to cities such as Detroit and Chicago decades ago.

“The Polish brought it here, and it’s fos­tered and grown into a tra­dition,” said Greg Kowalski, the chairman of the his­torical com­mission of Ham­tramck, Michigan, a 2 square-mile city sur­rounded by Detroit that is known for its Pączki Day cel­e­bration.

The holiday marks the final day before Ash Wednesday. Tra­di­tionally, people in Poland would make the doughnuts to use up any rich ingre­dients prior to the beginning of the Lenten fasting season.

Today, many people still cel­e­brate Mardi Gras with the dessert, even lining up at 2 or 3 a.m. in the morning outside bak­eries as they have since the 1910s.

To pre­serve the tra­dition, Ham­tramck began a fes­tival in honor of Pączki Day, com­plete with a parade and a 5K run in which par­tic­i­pants cross the finish line to receive the doughnut and a beer. Ham­tramck once had the second largest Polish pop­u­lation in the United States, though now it is the most diverse city in Michigan, according to Kowalski.

“Bak­eries go crazy and are open all night,” Kowalski said. “People will line up outside them, even when it’s below zero.”

Hills­dalians can pur­chase pączki, too. Kroger, Market House, and Wal-Mart all are selling pączki now, and the Jonesville Bakery will do so on Monday and Tuesday.

Kroger also is holding pączki “engagement events” for people cus­tomize the flavors in a box of four pączki at 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday, and 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday.

Kowalski, however, insisted that there is nothing like a Ham­tramck pączek.

“We’ve got the rep­u­tation,” he said. “They’ve got to be packed with like 1,000 calories.”

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Breana Noble
Breana Noble is The Collegian's Editor-in-Chief. She is a born and raised Michigander and studies politics and journalism. This summer, Breana interned in New York City at TheStreet, a business and finance news website. She has previously worked for The Detroit News, The American Spectator, and Newsmax Media. She eventually hopes to pursue a career in investigative journalism. email: bnoble1@hillsdale.edu | twitter: @RightandNoble