March 1 is Mardi Gras, National Pancake Day, and in Pennsylvania, it’s also Fastnacht Day or Fat Tuesday.
The tradition of preparing these often doughy delicacies on Shrove Tuesday began with the need to use up all the sugar, butter, lard, and sometimes mashed potatoes from home before the start of Lent. The result: a potato dough often leavened and fried like a doughnut.
The name “fastnacht” is said to come from German words translating to “fast night”.
Whether spelled fastnacht, fasnacht, or faschnaut, it’s a treat that many look forward to eating every year.
Here’s what you need to know about the fabulous fattening tradition:
National Pancake Day:IHOP has free pancakes. McDonald’s and Taco Bell also have deals
What is a fastnacht?
Introduced by the Pennsylvania Dutch and German cultures, a fastnacht is similar to a doughnut, although it tends to be heavier and taste a little less sweet. Recipes vary. Some include mashed potatoes and lard. Some are round. Some are square. Some have holes in the middle. They can be plain, glazed, or topped with powdered sugar or cinnamon and sugar.
What does fastnacht mean?
“Night of fasting”, as in, the last night for many Christians before the fasting season of Lent begins the next day, which is Ash Wednesday.
When is Fastnacht Day… and what is it?
Tuesday, March 1, 2022 is Fastnacht Day, also known as Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, and National Pancake Day. They all basically represent the same idea. Traditionally, this was the last day to use up all the sugar, butter and lard before the start of Lent. In many cultures around the world, it has become a day to indulge. Case in point: in Iceland they call it “Bursting Day”.
Did you say Shrove Tuesday? What is that?
The word “bold” comes from a term meaning “absolve”. Some Christians hope on this day to achieve absolution from their sins through repentance and self-assessment before the start of Lent. But first…hey, let’s get rid of a bunch of mushy goodies!
How do you spell fastnacht?
Fastnacht is fairly common, but fausnacht, fauschnaut, faschnacht, faisnacht, and fosnacht are also acceptable. Feel free to invent your own version for more confusion.
How fattening are they?
Depends on the recipe. Fat grams can vary from about 7 to 12 per fastnacht. Some say the calorie count is as low as 200. Others say it’s close to 500.
Where can I get one?
Churches in south-central Pennsylvania often make and sell their own fresh batches. But some grocery stores, bakeries and donut shops are also part of the tradition.
A version of this story first published in 2018. Teresa Boeckel of York, Pa., Daily Record contributed to this report.