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What Is Paczki Mania?

Contributor Victoria Trudeau offers a crash course in Paczki Mania.

Customers line-up outside New Martha Washington Bakery on Paczki Day in 2014.
Customers line-up outside New Martha Washington Bakery on Paczki Day in 2014.
Michelle and Chris Gerard

They call it "Fat Tuesday" for a reason, but only in Metro Detroit is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday called something a little different: Paczki Day (or, as some like to call it, the best day of the year). Polish or not, it's hard to live in Metro Detroit for any length of time and not come across a paczki at some point.

For the uninitiated, the Polish version of a jelly donut has been baffling people with its pronunciation (it's "poonch-key") and delighting with its ultimate carbs/sugar/fat combination since Hamtramck first welcomed millions of Polish immigrants to the city after WWII. Local Polish bakeries started selling the "little packages" on Fat Tuesday, as they had been traditionally made back in Europe to use up all of the sugar and fat in the house before they began fasting for the Catholic season of Lent.

The pastries caught on pretty quickly in Metro Detroit, and while they're still found in the biggest quantities in Hamtramck's many excellent Polish bakeries, they'll pop up just about everywhere on February 17. Find them at Italian bakeries in the suburbs, Mexican bakeries in Southwest Detroit, small startup bakeries like Sister Pie, and even some of the major grocery chains throughout the region.

Paczki eating contest on Paczki Day 2014. [Photo]

Which means no excuses. Can't eat gluten? There are a few local bakeries that make a celiac-friendly version. Don't like fruit filling? That's why they make custard (and chocolate, and buttercream, and even Nutella). Hate donuts? These are better, especially the authentic ones.

Paczki Day comes once a year, so join Eater Detroit for an entire celebration of Paczki Mania this week and next. Paczki mapspaczki events, paczki taste tests, and even paczki polls will take over the site in honor of Metro Detroit's unique food holiday. The weather is terrible, but the paczki are warm out of the fryer; and though the lines will be long, spirits will be high, because everyone's a little bit Polish on Paczki day, at least in Metro Detroit.

Have a Paczki Day event or update you'd like Eater Detroit to check out? Send it to the tipline or send us a tweet at @EaterDetroit #PaczkiMania.