Today, I am Polish-Filipino

If there’s one thing I love about Chicago, it’s the fact that they share a lot of the same traditions as Detroit does. Today just happens to be one of those days.

I had a co-worker back in Michigan that moved from the East Coast. The first February in Detroit, she recalled how she’d be reading the newspaper and would stumble upon this word that she had NO idea how to pronounce.

“Pack-zee? Pass-key?” That’s how she thought the word would sound like. “And what the *heck* is ‘Pazz-ski Day’ anyway?”

My fellow Detroiters and I laughed when we heard that statement. “Poonch-kee,” we corrected her. But really, we couldn’t fault her because … well, unless your Polish, you probably wouldn’t know how to pronounce “Paczki.”

For those of you that aren’t familiar with what a Paczki is, it’s a deep-fried piece of dough that is typically filled with either crème or jelly. Sounds like a regular doughnut, doesn’t it? Except it isn’t … it’s made out of especially rich dough containing eggs, fats, sugars and sometimes milk.  So basically it’s a lot more calories than your typical filled doughnut.

Paczki Day started as a Polish tradition in which a typical Polish-Catholic would make batches and batches of paczki to try to purge any ingredients that might spoil during the Lenten season. And, of course, what better day to get “rid” of all those extra paczki than to make Fat Tuesday the official day for these treats?

This tradition carried over to the US, and in particular the Midwestern states, where there are large communities of Polish-Americans. Detroit, in particular, has Hamtramck; a city of Polish descendents within the city of Detroit. And Chicago, apparently also has a multitude of Polish neighborhoods; which is collectively known as Chicago Polonia.

And why do I know so much of the history of Paczki Day? Well … let’s just say the Catholic Grade School I went to comprised mostly of Polish-Americans. So much that this Filipino-American knew more about pierogi and sauerkraut than the typical non-Polish-American. 

Seriously … our Grade School’s Annual Festival comprised of your typical Midway rides, a beer tent and a Polka contest. (And no … I do  not know how to Polka. But I have been taken around the dance floor a couple times!)  In fact these same co-workers (who helped me tease our East Coast transplant) have all but named me an “Honorary Pole” for knowing a little too much of Polish traditions!

So yes … I just thought I’d bring a little history to y’all non-Polish peeps and any non-Midwesterners. Have a wonderful FAT TUESDAY and a Happy Paczki Day!!

3 Replies to “Today, I am Polish-Filipino”

  1. I had my paczki today! Mine was raspberry filled. It was sinfully good!

    And since I am of Polish descent I felt especially proud to read your post! Happy Fat Tuesday! Too bad the next day starts Lent and fasting! (although I know it is good for me!)

    Good job on NaBloPoMo!

  2. Aw. I am actually Polish (born here, but as a wee tot knew more Polish-speaking adults than English-speaking ones), and I was mystified when I moved to Detroit because everyone was going on about a paczki DAY. I’ve certainly eaten my share (I like the apple ones), but where I grew up, paczki were just the donuts at the Polish bakery; like Krapfen for Germans. But it makes perfect sense that Poles would have used those to use up all their decadent ingredients before Lent. (I think other European countries made other confections too, because butter and so forth would be forbidden during Lent. Makes giving up chocolate seem pretty weak!)

    Thanks for bringing back memories of paczki, and Michigan. I miss that place! (Even though I never did get to Hamtramck. Made it to St. Josephat’s, though, and Sweetest Heart of Mary – which is SO GORGEOUS.)

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