Fat Thursday & Herring Night in Gdańsk

29 Jan 2024

What is Fat Thursday (Tłusty Czwartek)?

As in other Catholic countries that celebrate the last day before the fasting season of Lent begins, Poland has its own version of the French Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), known locally as Tłusty Czwartek, or Fat Thursday. With Lent forbidding sweets and treats, Fat Thursday is a similar celebration of gluttonous indulgence as in other countries, but with the date bungled, and instead of parading and partying the Poles queue up in lines that sometimes stretch around the corner in order to purchase pastries from the local cukiernia, or bakery.

A freshly-dusted pączka (EN: jam-filled doughnut) that is enthusiastically devoured around Poland on Tłusty Czwartek, or Fat Thursday.

Poland’s favourite pastries, particularly on Fat Thursday, are pączki - large deep-fried doughnuts typically filled with rose jam (or other marmalades), glazed with sugar, and sometimes topped with candied orange peel. Another Fat Thursday favourite are faworki - thin dough ribbons, fried until crispy and sprinkled with powdered sugar. The number of these baked goods consumed annually on Fat Thursday is truly astronomical, with 100,000,000 pączki being made for 38,000,000 hungry Poles (that's about 2.5 pączki per person). However, you can buy them any day of the year in most bakeries around Gdańsk, Sopot and Gdynia.

When is Fat Thursday (Tłusty Czwartek)?

In 2024 Fat Thursday falls on February 8th.

Pączka posing for the camera in Sopot!

Herring Night (Śledziówka)

But wait - there's another day to cram your face with local delicacies before Lent begins! The Tuesday following Fat Thursday (also known as the day before Ash Wednesday) is actually the last day before the Wielki Post (The Great Fast/Lent) begins. It's also the day that marks the end of the Karnawał (Carnival) period, which in many other countries is the day people will celebrate before the forty days of fasting and religious observance should begin. In Poland, this is known as Śledziówka or Śledzik (literally Herring Night) and you'll find the traditional pickled herring washed down with shots of vodka in many homes, bars and restaurants (Unfortunately, this year, you'll have to party at home). Be warned: this can get messy despite the fact most people are supposed to be at work or university the following day. In 2024 Śledziówka falls on February 13th.

Herring and vodka: the best Polish medicine.


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