No matter which spelling you prefer, this Pennsylvania Dutch tradition is rich and delicious. Fasnacht day is a decadent German holiday which coincides with Shrove Tuesday, or Fat Tuesday a traditional Christian feast day celebrated by denominations that observe lent. In Germany, the celebration of Shrove was first recorded in 1445. The feast day is marked by the eating of indulgent foods, sugars, and cooking in lard. Traditionally, Shrove Tuesday was an opportunity to use up all the rich ingredients in the house, such as sugar and fat before the 40-day long Lenten fast began on Ash Wednesday. The word Fastnacht means: “fasting night” or “almost night”.
Fasnachts are lightly sweetened, square or round, heavy, donut-like fried dough and can be made in three traditional ways. The first method is made with yeast, the second with baking powder, and third with potatoes and yeast together. Traditionalist will argue that the original Fasnacht is square, made with the potato dough, and does not have a hole like other donuts. Fasnachts are not typically iced, filled, or decorated and were originally eaten sliced in half with butter, or maple syrup.
As the tradition has grown over the years, many Pennsylvania Dutch families safeguard their recipes as family heirlooms. Pennsylvania Dutch bakeries in Montgomery, Berks, Lancaster, and York counties serve both traditional fasnachts as well as expertly iced and decorated delicacies. These bakeries look forward to annual long lines and crowds on Fasnacht Day.
FIFS is located in the Pennsylvania Dutch region of Montgomery and Bucks counties and has proudly participated in Fasnacht Day for over twenty years. Our office has some very strong opinions on what makes a Fastnacht a Fastnacht. Out of 18 participants, 44.4% of our office agrees that glazed is the superior way to enjoy a Fastnacht. 61.1% agrees that the correct shape of a fastnacht is square and 44.4% would prefer their fastnachts from Landis Supermarket, whereas 42.1% prefer homemade over store bought. Regardless of shape, toppings, or where they come from, our staff looks forward to indulging each year in this time-honored deep-fried tradition.