The 40 days and 40 nights of Lent aren’t so much associated with food, but rather a lack of therein. After all, it’s a period of self-denying frugality, culminating in one of the most feted observances in the Christian calendar.
This year’s Easter celebrations commence on Holy Thursday on 6th April, bringing abstention to a close, and getting Paschal merrymaking underway. In the UK, this often means chocolate eggs, hot cross buns, simnel cake and spring lamb.
But elsewhere, there are some weird and wonderful foody customs that precede Lenten austerity.
“Nothing says ‘feast’ like ‘impending fast’”, explains Sam-Lin Sommer in Atlas Obscura. “Every February and March, in preparation for a month-plus of abstention and prayer for Lent, Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians from Brazil to Poland get their fleshly desires out of their systems.”
Let’s take a look at just a few of their wacky ways with food…
- Pennsylvanian Fastnachts – These Golden mashed potato fryer-fresh doughnuts are often dredged in sugar, like traditional flour and yeast doughnuts. Or they’re drizzled with maple syrup, chocolate frosting, or even filled with cream for added decadence.
- New Orleans King Cake – This kaleidoscopic confection combines cinnamon roll with coffee cake. It’s chock-full of luxurious cream cheese and crunchy pecan praline. But its most precious filling is a hidden plastic figurine representing the baby Jesus.
- Polish Pączki – You won’t have to look very far on Fat Thursday (the day before Lent begins) to find these seasonal spring doughnuts, converging in the intersection where food meets flora. Prune jam is a typical filling. But so are rose petals or fried rosebuds.
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