Thursday, February 7, 2008

Feb 5 weird 'n wacky holidays

Alot of talk about pancakes today. Why? It's Shrove Tuesday, and depending on where you live, several different rituals are celebrated today. In Pennsylvania Dutch country, the German tradition of Fastnachts Day, or Fast Nights, is celebrated with - you guessed it - Fastnachts. What is a fastnacht? It's a yeast raised potato doughnut that does not have a hole in the center. A Pennsylvania Dutch favorite, the doughnut is sliced like a bagel, butter is spread inside, and it is topped with syrup. The celebration originated as a means of ridding the pantry of sugar and fat prior to the Lenten fasting period.

The tradition of pancake day began in England. People used up all the extra fat, sugar, and dairy products before the 40-day self-denial period began. After stuffing themselves with pancakes, the residents would participate in fun and games. A pancake day race at Buckinghamshire, England, has been held since 1445! An interesting legend is associated with the race.

Mardi Gras began in New Orleans as early as 1699, with the traditions associated with the holiday coming from the French. Mardi Gras translates to Fat Tuesday and can fall anywhere from February 3 to March 9. How is the date of the observance determined? The Lunar calendar used by the Catholic Church to determine the date of Easter. Mardi Gras is always 47 days prior to Easter.

Paczki Day is a Polish celebration similar to Fat Tuesday; however, this celebration occurs on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday and is called - you guessed it again - Fat Thursday. What is paczki? A Polish doughnut of sorts. Dough is flattened into a sphere and deep fried. Plums or marmalade are fill the pastry. In Poland, a marmalade made of rose buds is a traditional favorite. Polish-American celebrants choose fresh paczki topped with a powdered sugar or icing.

Those fun folks over at Wellcat have an interesting idea for today: Move Hollywood and Broadway to Lebanon, Pennsylvania Day. Lebanon is the former home office for the David Letterman Show. Personally, I'd like to see it moved to Ewing, Nebraska, the closest town to where I live, so I can catch some of my favorite Broadway shows!

And finally, Weather Person's Day pays tribute to those atmospheric prognosticators who occasionally predict the weather correctly. Actually, my oldest daughter started out as a meteorology major in college, so after seeing some of her coursework, I understand just how difficult it can be to predict accurately. And yes, on the farm, weather plays an important role. I didn't really realize just how much farmers depend on the weather forecast. Our TV is turned in to The Weather Channel for a large portion of the day.

If you're wondering about food holidays, head over to my new blog Food, Me, and History: A Love Affair and find out food histories and recipes!

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