Why Paczki Day is the best holiday

It’s Paczki Day! Chicago’s best holiday, and one rapidly eclipsing Casimir Pulaski Day as the biggest Polish holiday, because it involves doughnuts instead of a mercenary (albeit one with mad cavalry skills).

If you just moved here from a California sprout farm or something and don’t know what it’s all about, Paczki Day is when Chicagoans crush into bakeries to buy filled Polish doughnuts and end up late for work with our blood sugar screwed up. It’s great. It’s also “Shrove Tuesday,” which involves some sort of contrition or purification before Lent. The doughnuts come from people trying to use up cooking fats and/or leavening items that are banned during Lent. It seems counterintuitive to eat enormous sugary baked goods when we’re supposed to be contrite, but if that’s how one gets shriven, then shrive me up!

This year I’m going to go so far as to say this might be my favorite holiday, and my daughter Viva, who is currently covered in powdered sugar and Bavarian crème and bouncing off the walls, agrees.

She ran to me in her nightgown this a.m. shouting “Paczkis! Paczkis!” as though a Polish fairy had come in the night and put the doughnuts out. We certainly don’t usually start a school day with a thousand empty calories, but today it’s tradition …and we’re not even Polish. (Appropriation be damned!)

Let’s compare a holiday involving no gifts, no travel, no guilt, no ceremony, merely EATING A GIANT DOUGHNUT (or several) to the other big holidays:

New Year’s – This would be lovely if it didn’t involve driving on the coldest, snowiest day of the year with a world full of drunks.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – Everything was fine until it got co-opted by Dodge Trucks.

Groundhog Day – A cruel hoax. Whether or not the vermin sees his shadow, it’s going to be winter until mid-April.

St. Valentine’s Day – A blinding spotlight on your failing relationship.

St. Patrick’s Day – At some point it was about Ireland and snakes? Now it’s about frat boys and those Cubs hats with shamrocks on them.

Easter – Everyone looks bad in pastels.

Cinco de Mayo – Problematically sombrero.

Mother’s Day – A blinding spotlight on your inadequacy as a husband/son.

Memorial Day – Good. Not fun.

4th of July – Too ‘splodey.

Labor Day – The labor movement died years ago. What are we even celebrating? Working ourselves to death?

Halloween – Too sexy. Think of the children.

Columbus Day – Needs more celebration of polenta and less celebration of genocidal sea captains.

Election Day – Too gerrymandered.

Thanksgiving – Too Starchy.

Christmas – Too much “Wonderful Christmastime” and those awful puppet cartoons.

Paczki Day is the best holiday.

Where are you going to get your Paczkis today? Most places in Chicago with baked goods or a two-headed eagle on the sign are going to have them, but here are a few of my favorites:

  • Bennison’s Bakery: Evanston, but we’ll forgive them. Lots of flavors and the line, though long, is a friendly hang. 1000 Davis St. Evanston
  • Bridgeport Bakery: They’ve been open since before the sun came out and have nearly 20 flavors! 2907 S. Archer Ave., Chicago
  • Dinkel’s Bakery: Always delightful and with a wealth of paczki flavors. 3329 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago.
  • Gene’s Sausage Shop: Sausage and doughnuts. SAUSAGE AND DOUGHNUTS. 4750 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago

Enjoy and Happy Paczki Day!


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