more properly called "Fastnacht," is Shrove Tuesday, the day
before Ash Wednesday. This was the established beginning of the 40 days of
fasting during Lent. It is a folk tradition dating to the Middle Ages, a
Catholic custom that has survived in Protestant Pennsylvania.
On Monday, dough was put
out in straw baskets for raising, then cut in squares and deep-fried in
fat, not baked. Served with hot coffee at breakfast, the popular way to
eat them was to split them in half and spread with honey. (Today they
often come coated with confectioners’ sugar.)
In the old days, this was
a chance for everyone to gorge on good doughnuts without reprise, for the
lean days would now follow. And the proverbial "dunker" could
dunk doughnuts to his stomach’s content. The making of fasnachts helped
use up fat and sugar prior to fasting.
to those well-versed in Pennsylvania German folklore, means Green
Thursday, the day before Good Friday. It was an occasion to eat something
green to insure good health for the coming year.
or Good Friday, immediately following Green Thursday, had an even deeper
religious significance. While others of her household were at church, the
good "haus frau" (housewife) undertook the time-honored task of
boiling and decorating many eggs. When dyes were unavailable, eggs were
colored by immersing them in boiling water in which onion skins had been
placed. Mother would also prepare the many table courses of food for the
breaking of the fast on Easter morning.
Adapted from the booklet
PENNSYLVANIA DUTCHLAND by Robert Lash Robbins and Ralph R. Smith, and