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What Is a Fastnacht?

A fastnacht is a heavy, yeast raised potato doughnut that is typically prepared on Fat Tuesday before the start of the Lenten season. These doughnuts are part of Easter traditions in Pennsylvania Dutch country, which includes Lancaster, York, and Berks counties in south-central Pennsylvania.

Fastnachts are square or triangular in shape and do not have holes in their centers. Square-shaped fastnachts are meant to represent the four gospels of the Bible, whereas a triangular fastnacht represents the Holy Trinity.

When Is Fastnacht Day 2018?

Fastnacht Day 2018 is Tuesday, February 13. This day is also known as Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, or Shrove Tuesday. Fastnacht Day is the last day before Lent, the 40-day season before Easter, begins on Ash Wednesday.

What Does “Fastnacht” Mean?

what is a fastnacht

The term “fastnacht” comes from the German words “fast,” a shortened form of the verb “fasten” meaning “to fast,” and “nacht,” which means “night.” Fastnacht Day is the eve of the Lenten fasting period that many Christian denominations observe. Tradition holds that on this day, households use up all the fat and sugar in the house before Lent begins. This practice also gives Fat Tuesday its name.

How Are Fastnachts Usually Served?

Traditionally, you eat a fastnacht by slicing it horizontally like a bagel, spreading it with butter, and then topping it with table syrup. Replace the top, and then enjoy! Because these Lenten doughnuts don’t have holes like many typical doughnuts, you won’t have to worry about the syrup seeping out and making a mess. Many people also enjoy fastnachts coated in powdered sugar or granulated sugar.


While fastnachts originated in Germany, they are now a popular part of Pennsylvania Dutch culture. These Lent doughnuts come from the practice of eliminating fat and sugar from your household before fasting, and their rich texture makes them great treats for the Easter season. This year, consider adding fastnachts to your Fat Tuesday meal for a taste of Pennsylvania Dutch tradition.

Posted in: Holidays | Bakeries | By Christine Potts
steve ziegler Says:

Great post Leidra!

Michael Chikar Says:

A cup of yeast???

Leidra Horton Says:

Good call Mike. In the original recipe printed in the book, it did say 1 cup of yeast. I'm betting in 1936 those cups of yeast were NOT the same as today? Since the book is so old, finding out what it should be is a little tough. I'm going to say go with 1 yeast cake dissolved instead. Sounds like a safer bet to me. Good luck!

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