Timeless traditions?


Yesterday was Fastnacht Day. In your neck of the woods, you might call it Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras, but for those of who live with PA coal region transplants, it’s Fastnacht Day. And on Fastnacht Day, you eat doughnuts. The premise is the same as the other pre-Lenten observances: rid your pantry of anything that might tempt you later and party hard because the next forty days are meant to be somber and sober ones.

At school one of my colleagues, Joe Gabuzda, who grew up in Manohoy City fifty miles north of Reading, would bring the treats in for us every year. He even continued the tradition for a few years after he retired until there were more teachers he didn’t know than he knew. I’m sorry he stopped and not because I miss the doughnuts though I do. I miss Joe more, but I’m also sorry to see that piece of culture fall to the wayside. It’s not something my family ever practiced. Sure we always gave something up for Lent even on Sundays, but we didn’t have a tradition that everyone with a similar surname practiced. I’m afraid that’s truer today than forty years ago when I was a kid.

I am encouraged though by the fact that a teacher in my sister’s school (Yes, teaching runs in my family) makes Italian cookies every year for Christopher Columbus Day. I’d never heard of this before, and this school isn’t far from where I grew up. Maybe if our last name had been Barella instead of Graham we would have too. Maybe there are others named Barella still do. What about you? Do you have a custom that you still practice borne of the region or culture you’re from? If so, please share.

I’m participating in the Slice of Life Challenge. Won’t you join me?


Published in: on March 5, 2014 at 10:50 am  Comments (6)  
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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Yes! I know what Fastnacht Day is! I grew up in eastern PA and currently reside in central PA and both places are rich with this tradition. Although I have never made donuts for this day, I have family members that do. Your question really made me think, though, about what traditions have been carried down by region or culture and I’m not sure. It may be time to resurrect some traditions to pass down to my children.

  2. I should have written about the Finnish Fat Tuesday tradition. Didn’t even remember it until this morning. No Finns around me so none of those goodies to buy. Maybe a post later….

  3. Growing up two miles from Mahanoy City I am well aware of the coal region traditions. Although we never made doughnuts on Fastnacht Day, we sure did eat them (and I still do). One custom Kathy and I have concerns St. Nicholas day, December 6th. We put out our shoes before going to bed in the hopes that St. Nicholas will fill them during the night. He always does.

  4. I have never heard it called “Fastnacht Day” before. That is so interesting. Thank you for sharing!

  5. I never had “Fastnacht Day”, even though I live near you! Our ethnic tradition was having seven fishes on Christmas Eve. Of course, only my father really liked fish. One year he made SURE we’d all participate because he got an assortment of gummy fish, gummy octopus, cheddar fish crackers, etc. It was adorable.

  6. I love the idea of eating doughnuts on Fastnacht Day. I’ve always called it Fat Tuesday. Some years I give up something- coffee, diet coke, sugary snacks, and some years I don’t.

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