Pączki – a traditional home made European confection nominally prune-filled and lightly dusted with powdered sugar with variations on the theme; a filled pastry.
I prefer lemon-filled.
Lent – a traditional Christian season of fasting and prayer (nominally 40 days) leading up to the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday.
Fat Tuesday (literally Mardi Gras) – the day before Ash Wednesday
Ash Wednesday – the first day of Lent.
What I said was: “I gave up Pączkis for Lent.” Only a Polish mathematician could figure that one out.”
On Fat Tuesday (literally Mardi Gras) my brother noted we’d forgotten to get us some pączkis. In the local media it is an annual ritual to repeat the pączki coverage. The local newspaper and TV stations run the story about the rush to obtain these traditional pastries. They usually talk about the hectic mass production that goes on in the run up to Fat Tuesday or the long lines formed at the local bakeries; lines that sometimes stretch out the door, around the corner and down the block.
Miscalculating demand, supermarkets often run out of these popular delicacies.
In a jocular vein we draw a comparison between those folks eagerly seeking pączkis and rock concert fans – early ticket buyers laying out all night in their sleeping bags on the fridgedly cold concrete sidewalks – waiting for National Bakery to open.
Fat Tuesday is the last day traditional Christians – especially Polish Roman Catholics – can legally eat “poonchkeys” because the next day – Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent – a time of prayer and fasting.
Appealing to the lawyer in all of us, we can legally stuff our faces with pączkis ’til midnight on Mardi Gras and repent at leisure in the days following. Repent I say, mindful of the fact that traditonal pączkis are prune-filled.
What shall we call it? Loading the front end? As Mardi Gras is a bacchanalian revelry and occasion for riotous and sinful behavior that few actually regret much less seriously repent of; or like Halloween (All Hallows Eve) juxtaposed against All Saints Day; is it just a time for us to give the Devil his due?
So, if I load up on pączkis beforehand and give them up later have I suffered for Christ’s sake? No. It is mere wordplay to say “I gave up Pączkis for Lent”, as most people nominally do, in part because the bakeries just stop making them and the supermarkets eventually run out.
By not having pączkis this year I gained nothing beforehand either gustatorially or calorically; but have I really lost anything by giving them up for Lent? If we first feast then fast the net sum is zero. But if we fast from the feast (decline the feast) then fast only on the feast we declined the net sum in either case is zero.
Feasting before Fasting is a bit of a cheat. We lose only what we’ve gained. It is as if in celebration of Mardi Gras we deliberately go out of our way to sin so we have something cool to repent. Again, the net sum in such a case is zero.
In other words, the whole idea behind Lenten prayer, fasting and self-denial is to get in good with The Almighty, right? But gorging yourself on a baker’s dozen of pączkis prior to obstaining from them won’t win you any points; and neither will obstaining from something you wouldn’t miss or even routinely indulge in to begin with.
In discussing this with my son he noted similar behavior among Muslims during Ramadan. Regardless of stripe it seems you can’t keep a good lawyer down.
I might go to Hell for getting this wrong but I believe I have an indulgence – an exemption due to age (as are young children) from fasting or, God help me – kneeling in prayer. (Jesus – lift me up!)
So we’d forgotten to get us some pączkis this year and that triggered the idea of giving up pączkis altogether for Lent.