Today is a celebratory day in many parts of the world and you've probably heard today referred to as Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, or Fat Tuesday. But today is also called Fastnacht Day in some places.

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Fastnacht Day is a big day in places like Pennsylvania where whole families get together and spend several days making the treat ahead of today. Fastnachts, pronounced (foss-knots), are amazingly delicious donuts, but they are incredibly heavy and will fill you up for most of the day.

In the German language, Fastnacht stands for "fast," meaning to fast, and "nacht," meaning night. Fastnacht Day is the day before what begins the traditional Lenten fasting period, which is observed by many Christians and always falls on the day before Ash Wednesday. Basically, this is the equivalent celebration to Mardi Gras and is a way to empty cupboards of any lard, sugar, fat, and butter, which were traditionally fasted from during Lent.

If you're interested in teaching your kids about the history of Fastnacht Day and maybe making your own, I found this authentic Pennsylvania Dutch recipe thanks to Pam's PA Dutch Recipes and Dig It Magazine:

Fastnachts

2½ cups hot mashed potatoes
1 cup milk
3 beaten eggs
2 Tablespoons melted butter
2 cups of sugar
2 Tablespoons baking powder
5 cups flour

Mix everything together except flour. Mix flour in slowly. Divide the dough in half. Roll ½ inch thick. Cut with a donut cutter or use a knife to cut into triangular-shaped pieces. Deep fry in hot fat or oil until done. Serve with sugar or molasses.

If you're looking to buy fastnachts locally, I've seen them at Wegmans in Johnson City and at all Weis Markets.

[via Dig It Magazine/The Sentenial]