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Mardi Gras 2012: Paczki Day, a Polish tradition.

Even Nancy Pelosi enjoys Paczki, Polish jelly-filled donuts, on Fat Tuesday.
Mardi Gras 2012 Paczki dayEnlarge
Former US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is given a box of paczki, a traditional pastry commonly eaten on Fat Tuesday, from the Chene Modern Bakery in Detroit. (Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images)

There are many names for the day before Lent. In New Orleans, it's Mardi Gras. In Brazil, it's Carnival. In Poland, it's Paczki Day.

Paczki (pronounced, bizarrely enough, as Poonch-key) are fried, jelly-filled doughnuts, a traditional Polish treat from the time of King Augustus III. 

At first, their consumption was a purely practical matter. The spongy, yeast cakes were made in Poland to use up the last of the prohibited lard and eggs before Lent began. Thus, paczki are much richer than a normal jelly doughnut. There's usually about 450 calories packed into each tiny pastry, the Times Herald reported.

Now it's just part of the larger Fat Tuesday celebration — a last binge on delicious sweets before the 40 days of fasting commences.

There are a few variations of the paczki tradition. While in Poland the treats are most often eaten the Thursday before Lent, in southeastern Michigan it's been enveloped into the larger Fat Tuesday holiday, Patch reported.

Just beware — many claim that if you don't eat a paczki before Ash Wednesday, there's a good chance you'll be unlucky for the rest of the year.