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Lenten Kitchens

Do your Lenten traditions include a spring cleaning of your kitchen?  For our Catholic ancestors, spring cleaning meant emptying the house of sugary treats to prepare for Lenten fasting.  They used up their supplies of butter and sugar by baking desserts to eat during Shrovetide, the week before Lent.  Traditional Shrovetide foods include pancakes with lots of butter and syrup as well as fasnachts and paczki.

Fasnachts are a square-shaped fried pastry.  Authentic fasnachts are made with potatoes and never have frosting or sprinkles.  Unlike donuts, fasnachts do not have holes.  The name fasnachts comes from a German word that means fast night or the night before the fast.

Paczki are jelly-filled buns that are a special treat for Catholics of Polish descent. In Poland, paczki are eaten on Thusty Czwartek (Fat Thursday) which is the Thursday before Ash Wednesday.   In the United States, paczki are usually enjoyed on the Tuesday before Lent to coincide with other pre-Lenten observances.

If Catholics give up desserts during Lent, how do they satisfy their cravings?

According to legend, pretzels, a popular snack food, were developed by a monk circa 610 AD to help Catholics keep their Lenten fast.  The monk took scraps of bread dough and twisted it into the shape of a prayer position, two arms crossed over the chest with hands touching the shoulders.  Since the only ingredients were water, flour, and salt, and because of its prayerful shape, the pretzel soon became the perfect food to eat during Lent.

For a time, it had been customary in Europe to only sell pretzels from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. Today they are sold throughout the year but there are still many customs associated with pretzels and Lent.  Catholics in Luxemburg celebrate Pretzel Sunday, Bretzelsonndeg, on the third Sunday of Lent.  On Pretzel Sunday, a boy gives a pretzel to a girl that he likes.  If the girl returns his affection, he is invited to visit her home on Easter Sunday to receive a gifted of decorated eggs.   During leap years, the custom is reversed so that girls give pretzels to boys, and boys decorate eggs for the girls.

Read more at Catholic Exchange 

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