It’s customary in several places around the world to celebrate Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday by eating Fastnachts. Actually, fastnachts are a pretty huge deal in places like Pennsylvania where whole families devote entire days to making them and every grocery store carries the treat for those who, like me, are baking challenged.

Fastnachts, pronounced (foss-knots), are amazingly delicious, although very heavy donuts. Trust me when I tell you that just one fastnacht will fill you up for the whole 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. Sometimes this day is called "Shrove Tuesday" but no matter the name, it always falls 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 little ones 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 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 in years past at Wegmans in Johnson City and at all of the Weis Markets.