As you may know, today is Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday), the eve of the Lenten Season. Known as Karneval in Cologne, Fasching in Bavaria, and Fasnet in southwestern Germany and parts of Switzerland, traces of the tradition have come to Pennsylvania via the German-speaking progenitors of the Pennsylvania Dutch (about whom we will talk in week 4). The word for "donut" in PA Dutch is "Fasnacht", from "Fastnacht" (< 'eve of the fasting season'). At this time it was traditional for people to use up some food items (lard, sugar, etc.) they would be forgoing during Lent, hence the practice of making donuts. "Fasnacht" has entered regional Pennsylvania English (somewhat like "bismarck", from the Bismarck Hotel in Chicago, I believe). At left is a photo I received from Joshua Brown, a graduate student in German Linguistics at Penn State University. Although State College, PA, is located outside of the traditional Dutch Country, that hasn't stopped the Dunkin Donuts there from capitalizing on their day in the sun!
You can also access an article on fasnachts from the Morning Call in Allentown, PA, here.
Enjoy, Mark (Louden)