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Celebrating Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras

by: Annette M. Hall
posted: February 28, 2006

Many holidays are observed with the creation of special or elaborate dishes and Fat Tuesday is no exception. It's interesting to note that just as families will have their own holiday traditions, many communities and countries will celebrate Fat Tuesday in their own unique way.

New Orleans, Lousiana is famous for it's Mardi Gras festival. Did you know that? "Gras" is French for fat and "Mardi" is French for Tuesday, is also called "Shrove Tuesday" or "Pancake Day." Mardi Gras has been celebrated in New Orleans annually since 1699, except during the two World Wars. Even the recent hurricanes didn't prevent the annual merriment from taking place.

The festivities begin on January 6, the Twelfth Night Feast of the Epiphany, when Christians believe the three kings are to have visited the Christ Child, and build to a climax on Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, which takes place the day before Ash Wednesday. The parties and parades continue until Lent begins at the stroke of midnight on Tuesday.

Mardi Gras Music

Mardi Gras is a legal holiday in New Orleans. It is scheduled to occur 46 days before Easter. Since the actual date Easter occurs on changes yearly, Mardi Gras can happen on any Tuesday between February 3 and March 9.

New Orleans is not the only city that does it up big for Fat Tuesday. Detroit has a lot of fun, each year, on this last day before lent. In Detroit, Fat Tuesday is better known as Paczki Day.

A paczki (pronounced "Poonch-key") is a Polish donut. It uses a richer batter than traditional donuts. These donuts are traditionally filled with raspberry or prune filling although the popular pastries now come in a wide variety of fillings. Hamtramck, a small Polish city within Detroit, is where the authentic Polish bakeries are located and thousands of metro Detroiters make the trek to Hamtramck every year on Fat Tuesday to indulge in the sinfully sweet treat. In Detroit, Fat Tuesday is so named for the oil and shortening found in paczkis that Christian Poles so often give up for Lent.

Paczki Day is a Polish Holiday that was essentially unheard of until the early 80s when the media began covering this event and, publicizing this yummy Polish treat. Now it seems like everyone is Polish on Paczki Day! It's become a Detroit tradition, regardless of ethnic origin.

Passing along time-honored family traditions can help provide the glue to assist our children in feeling like they are part of something bigger than themselves and provide fond memories that will last a life-time. It's never too early to begin teaching the little ones about their roots and their own family heritage.

If you have preschoolers at home you will want to be sure to visit Universal Preschool's, A Pancake Curriculum!, where you will find ways to share a traditional "Pancake Day" with your preschoolers. You will find everything from Pancake Geography, complete with pancakes from around the world, to exciting Pancake Literature.

Masking Making & History

The wearing of elaborately adorned masks has long been a Mardi Gras tradition. Mardi Gras has been celebrated in New Orleans on a grand scale, with masked balls and colorful parades, since the French settlers arrived in the early 1700s. Hidden behind masks, people behaved so raucously that for decades in the early 19th century masks were deemed illegal in that party-loving city.

While I wouldn't suggest taking the kiddies to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, why not start your own Fat Tuesday celebration. We've provided links to help learn all about the history of Mardi Gras and the how masks have been used historically including how to make masks that the kids will love.

About the Paczki

Trivia and Items of Interest

Whether you call it Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day, we hope you enjoy the festivities and take this time to create lasting memories with your children.







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