Fat Thursday, known locally as Tłusty Czwartek, is a day linked to the church calendar. On this day, for many Polish people, it is the last day to eat lots of fatty, sugary food and drink alcohol before Lent (the Christian festival). Some Polish people abstain from alcohol and meat completely during Lent. Others continue to eat meat and alcohol during this six-week period, but almost every Polish person celebrates Fat Thursday as the final day of eating indulgent foods ahead of Easter.
On the Wednesday before, and all day on Fat Thursday itself, expect bakeries to be queued out the door. What you will experience is a lot of sweet Polish food being sold and eaten, mostly Faworki (“angel wings,” pastry with sugar) and Pączki (filled doughnuts).
Fat Thursday is celebrated nationwide in Poland and also by Polish people living abroad. Even immigrants and tourists who live in Poland love to celebrate this exciting day. The day has more recently become popular with foreign travel bloggers in Poland, including Chido Fajny and Northern Irishman in Poland, both of whom have written about the day. It is a day of fun, where foreigners can really see a Polish tradition in action.
The exact date of Fat Thursday changes every year because it depends on the Christian calendar and is linked to Lent and Easter. However, Fat Thursday is always celebrated on the last Thursday before Ash Wednesday and, therefore, just before the beginning of Lent.
It is a nationwide festival all over Poland. However, other countries also celebrate Fat Thursday (or an equivalent), including Germany, Italy, Spain, and Greece. The day is also celebrated by Polish people living abroad, particularly in cities like Chicago and New York. Fat Thursday is similar to the British tradition of Shrove Tuesday, where many Brits eat pancakes on their final Tuesday before lent.
In general, all types of sweet and fatty foods are devoured all over Poland on Fat Thursday, but the two most popular are Pączki and Faworki. What are they?
Put simply – pączki (singular – pączek) are a Polish version of the doughnut and are the most widely and commonly consumed food on Fat Thursday. The most traditional pączki are filled with rose flavoured jam, but many varieties exist. These scrumptious little doughnuts can be filled with chocolate, raspberry jam, or custard and can be topped with icing, sugar, or almonds. It is said that you will have bad luck for an entire year if you do not eat at least one pączek on this day! On Fat Thursday, many big businesses in Warsaw and major Polish cities give pączki away as presents to staff, meaning you will have no easy way to avoid seeing them. It’s a national phenomenon.
The second special treat of a typical Fat Thursday are faworki. These are sometimes referred to as angel wings. They are delightful little crisps of pastry which have been fried and turned into twisted ribbon shapes. Faworki are sprinkled with powdered sugar and purchased normally in a large box before being placed in a bowl to share.
So make sure you try these two typical Polish treats if you are in Poland on Tłusty Czwartek! To prepare for your trip, check out these cool facts about Poland even the Polish don’t know.