MILWAUKEE -- The Lenten season begins with Ash Wednesday. It is a time of year when people give up sweets. But on Fat Tuesday, thousands turned to Milwaukee bakeries for one last feast before the six-week fast. It is better known as "Paczki Day."
Polish families used to make Paczki as a way of getting rid of their lard, sugar, and eggs before the Lenten season. Now, the jelly-filled Polish pastry is sold by the thousands in places like National Bakery in Milwaukee.
Lines at National Bakery were outside the door at 5 a.m. Polka music and Paczki greeted them inside. Those waiting in the long lines on Tuesday, Feb. 25 did not seem to mind.
"It's a tradition. They've been around forever," said Irv Raasch, a customer.
"They're delicious -- and Paczkis only happen once a year, so we have to come today," said Mary Kramer, a customer.
National Bakery, Milwaukee's oldest, business does not get better than this.
"Today's the single craziest day of the year for us. Most bakeries, it's probably Christmas is the busiest day, but for us on Paczki Day, it's the busiest day of the year for us by far," said Bryant Krauss, co-owner of National Bakery.
It is a sense of pride for the bakers here -- who started preparing for the Paczki Day crowd on Sunday.
"We're probably looking at 50,000 Paczkis between the two days," Krauss said.