My new town has a donut-based holiday.

I first learned about Paczki Day when I was visiting Detroit in February of this year. I went to Small’s, a Hamtramck rock venue, to see a show. I got carded at the door, and when I presented my out-of-state ID, the doorman asked, “Missouri? Really?”

“Yep.”

“What are you doing in Hamtramck?”

“I’m thinking about moving here.”

I instantaneously became the recipient of an enthusiastic two-bouncer bear hug. “It’s the best decision you’ll ever make! I love Hamtramck! Are you going to be here on Tuesday?”

“No, I’m leaving before then.”

“Is there any way you can change your plans? Tuesday is Paczki Day.”

“What’s that?”

Where New Orleans has its massive Fat Tuesday Mardi Gras debauchery, and St. Louis has its own formidable boozefest (complete with dog parade), Hamtramck has Paczki Day. It’s celebrated in other cities with large Polish-American populations, but here it is legend. On Paczki Day, you do two things:

1. Eat massive amounts of enormous Polish donuts called paczki, and
2. drink drink drink.

Hillary Cherry, one of the geniuses behind Hamtramck Star, tells me that Paczki Day was instated by a 1980s mayor of Hamtramck around the time that the Dodge Main plant was being torn down. Spirits were down and moths were flying out of pocketbooks, and so it was a way to get people from all over the metro area to come to Hamtramck and buy paczki and alcohol. What a great idea. 

I am told that I will need to take the day off work.

I’m sure this isn’t news to Detroitlanders, but for folks elsewhere who are curious, here’s a video of Mo Rocca visiting Hamtramck on Paczki Day.

It’s a couple of months off yet, but I can’t wait. Innards, I’m sorry in advance.

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Published in: on December 14, 2009 at 10:56 am  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Welcome to Hamtramck! I love the town.

  2. I have to say that I love your Curious Feet blog, but we need to talk paczki. The Polish priests and nuns who educated me would freak out when anyone called paczkis a “donut” so feel this desire to correct anyone who calls it such.

    In Polish households, it’s generally forbidden to have any sugar or other sweets during Lent. Paczkis were thus created centuries ago as a way of getting rid of all of that temptation. The result is a pastry that is not only a bit larger than most donuts, but has A LOT more sugar and filling than any mere donut would ever dream of having. I read somewhere that a paczki has 600 – 800 calories in it. Just one of those things is a complete meal, calorie wise.

    People have long flocked to Hamtramck on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday to get some paczki because it’s one of the major Polish enclaves and home to some great Polish bakeries. In the 1980s, they added all of the rock n roll elements to it in order to get more business out of that tradition.

    And my God, is it ever fun.

  3. Wait…how did you miss this as a holiday when you lived in Chicago? It’s a HUGE deal here, or at least there are local news stories on it every year. Even so, I think I lived here for years before I really knew about it, and of course it’s not all over the city…

    A certain bakery in my neighborhood sells paczkis, yet I’ve never tried theirs.

    Perhaps I’ll have to make a trip for the Hamtramck festivities…


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