The Story Behind a Festive Michigan Favorite: Paczki Day

Paczki Day, one of the tastiest traditions in Michigan, is coming up on Feb. 16. Thousands participate in Paczki Day festivities each year by enjoying the delicious Polish treats. But don’t be mistaken in thinking Paczki Day is just about indulging in jelly-filled donuts: It comes with a rich history and tradition that has strong roots here in Michigan.

The making and indulging in paczki dates back to the Middle Ages. During that time, people in Poland would make pastries to use up all of their lard, sugar, eggs and other decadent ingredients before beginning Lent (a period of 40 days where Christians cut out certain foods like sweets or dairy and avoid eating meat on Fridays). Back then, the rich pastries were filled with pork fat. The more modern versions are a lot sweeter, often filled with fruit jelly (commonly raspberry, apple or lemon) or custard and dusted in powdered sugar.

When Polish immigrants came to the United States—especially Midwestern cities like Detroit, Chicago, Green Bay and Cleveland—at the beginning of the 20th century, Paczki Day came with them. And it’s been celebrated here on Fat Tuesday ever since.

As far as where Paczki Day festivities occur in Michigan, Hamtramck is a particularly well-known destination for celebrations. That’s mostly due to the town’s rich Polish heritage and authentic bakeries like New Palace Bakery and New Martha Washington Bakery. In fact, thousands flock to Hamtramck each year to stock up on paczki, lining up around the block in the early hours of the morning, no matter the weather.

Paczki aren’t necessarily the healthiest treat (they can contain up to 1,000 calories and 80 grams of fat each), so you could also try whipping up a healthier version on your own (we’re partial to this alternative paczki recipe).


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Read 7 Comments

  1. Well, this year at select Coney islands they r putting their hot dogs into Paczkis instead of their buns with the chili and onions!

  2. There are NO Polish bakeries in Hamtramck. Haven’t been for many years. The ones you listed are NOT owned by Polish decendent families. Please fact-check.

  3. Well, this was very interesting but the original paczki were NOT JELLY DONUTS but more of cake like with real fruit inside. The most popular and traditional filling is prune.
    Today they have become more like jelly donuts and have departed from our Polish tradition. Sad!!

  4. The Best Paczki ever you can find at:
    1. Holiday Market 1203 Main Street, Royal Oak
    2. Polish Market 2938 E Maple Rd Troy, MI 48083 ph# 2485775334
    3. Bozek Market 42354 Van Dyke Ave Sterling Height MI 48314 ph # 5869910135

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