Happy Paczki (pronounced ˈpɔntʂkʲi') Day!

Dear Penitent People:

As we approach the season of Lent, it is important to note that the day before Ash Wednesday in much of the world is known as Fat Tuesday, owing to the historic tradition of not eating fats and sugars during the season of penance. While the celebration known as Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, is a ten-month tourist celebration in New Orleans, in many countries the days of Carnival begin the Thursday before Lent and culminate on Tuesday, the eve of Ash Wednesday.

In Poland, Fat Thursday is known as Tłusty Czwartek, a holiday that obviously began during the great Eastern European vowel famine of 1488, in which the letter O was in such short supply that many Slavic languages began substituting the underused Z, which created massively higher Scrabble scores.   

In Chicago, Fat Tuesday became known as Pazcki (pronounced POON-ski) Day, owning to the Polish tradition of eating rich, fruit or cream-filled doughnuts originally created for bakers to use up fats and sugars prohibited during the season of Lent. The Pazcki (pronounced punch-KEY) is often confused with the Berliner, a jelly-filled German confection and briefly, on June 26, 1963, the nickname of President Kennedy; the Pazcki (pronounced Pooce-KEE) has a richer more cream and egg-filled dough. Other cultures also developed the practice of consuming sweets and fats prior to Lent, with the major exception of Norway, a country whose cuisine remains penitential all year long.

Pazcki (pronounced pants-CEY) are also consumed on Casimir Pulaski Day, celebrated on the first Monday of March exclusively in the states of Illinois and Wisconsin, owing to the 1977 discovery of several cases of eggs and bags of sugar in a bakery located in the 19th Ward of Chicago, the home of Thomas Hynes, then president of the Illinois Senate. Realizing the sugars could not be consumed during Lent, the State Senator Hynes’ research team found an obscure Revolutionary War Polish mercenary to commemorate, thereby permitting the eating of Polish doughnuts, Pazcki (pronounced parcheesi), smack dab in the middle of Lent. In his impassioned speech before the empty Senate chamber, Hynes noted how St. Patrick’s Day always falls during Lent, and if the Irish get to drink beer during the season of penance, certainly the Polish-American community should be granted a moment or two to allow jelly to run down their chins before Easter.

The Protestant Reformation, started by Martin Luther, who loved both beer and Berliners, rejected the notion of penitential days, marking all days as holy. Proposals by Norwegian reformers to commend the eating of lutefisk throughout the year were soundly rejected once delegates tasted the Norwegian delicacy; also rejected was the Scottish proposal for the eating of haggis, a Scottish term for I wouldn’t eat that on a bet. In a compromise, the Scottish delegates were permitted to use bagpipes for ordination ceremonies even though they were, up until that time, an exclusively outdoor toy.

Recently, Protestants have begun to celebrate Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent. This tradition also began in Chicago after the great Ash Wednesday El Platform Riot of 1971, when a Presbyterian told his Catholic colleague he had some kind of smudge on his forehead, licked a handkerchief and attempted to wipe him clean. In the compromise signed later that Easter, Presbyterians agreed to recognize Ash Wednesday and eat Pazcki (pronounced PUNCH-me) on Mardi Gras, provided they were exempt from ever eating haggis again. Roman Catholics also agreed to sneak an occasional steak onto the menu even though it was Friday.

Helping you keep your ecclesial holidays clear, and inviting you to our own Ash Wednesday service at 7:00 p.m. in the Sanctuary (doughnuts will not be served before or after the service), I remain,

With Love,
Jonathan Krogh
Your Pastor