Fasnacht Day is just around the corner and will be celebrated on March 8th this year. When I first moved to Hanover, PA several years ago, I had never heard of Fasnacht or Fasnacht Day until I spotted large signs posted at local bakeries and grocers. Fasnacht (also known as Fasnacht or Faschnacht) is a fatty doughnut traditionally served on Shrove Tuesday, the day before the start of Lent. Fasnacht Day began as a folk tradition in the Middle Ages to use up fat and sugar prior to fasting for Lent.
In the old days, dough was prepared on Monday and placed in a straw basket to allow the dough to rise. Early on Shrove Tuesday, the dough was cut into squares, deep-fried, cut in half and topped with butter or honey and served with coffee for breakfast. Not only was this a way to rid household pantries of the fat and sugar, but it allowed family members to eat as much as they wanted before 40 days of fasting began.
Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Poland and France are just some of the European countries that have annual festivals for Fasnacht. The Polish type of Fasnacht, called Paczki, are round and filled with jelly or crème filling. German versions, called kinklings, are made with yeast and may be plain or filled with fruit and dusted with sugar or cinnamon sugar. Bakeries in certain parts of Maryland offer these German doughnuts for Shrove Tuesday.
The Pennsylvania Dutch community in Lancaster, PA and in several counties in south central and south eastern Pennsylvania celebrates Fasnacht Day. Some doughnuts are potato doughnuts, some are plain, while others are dusted with sugar or confectioner’s sugar.
One plain Fasnacht doughnut has 217 calories, 12 grams of fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 8 grams of sugar and 3 grams of protein. One cream filled Fasnacht doughnut has 307 calories, 21 grams of fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 26 grams of carbohydrate, 12 grams of sugar and 5 grams of protein.
I tried Fasnacht doughnuts the first year I lived in Hanover. I was glad I only bought ½ dozen and was able to give some to my grandchildren because they had too much of a deep-fried flavor and just one doughnut felt heavy in my stomach. However, Fasnachts remain a favorite with many locals and the tradition continues.