Fastnacht Day: A Pennsylvania Dutch tradition

'What Berks Countian doesn't like fastnachts?'

MUHLENBERG TWP., Pa. - Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras? In Pennsylvania Dutch Country, there's no better way to refer to it than as 'Fastnacht Day'.

"Fastnacht means the night before fasting," said Allison Bracy, who already knows the recipe well.

The 13-year-old volunteered with Fleetwood Bible Church to bake more than 500 fastnachts for the men at the Hope Rescue Mission in Reading..

"Last night, we made about 60 pounds of dough. It's a whole lot of ingredients," said Allison's father, Rich Bracy. 

There's no uniform way to eat the treat. Some enjoy it plain; others pair it with sugar, molasses, syrup or honey.

"What Berks Countian doesn't like fastnachts?" asked Tara Hamaker, a baker at Dutch-Maid Bakery in Muhlenberg Township.

It's always the bakery's busiest day of the year. 

"We made over 3,000 dozen for today," Hamaker said.

It's a rich treat to celebrate a rich tradition.

"They taste really great, but some of it's just the memories," said Rich Bracy, who worries the deeply ingrained tradition will slowly get lost. "I think it's happening less and less. I think its kind of disappearing as generations go on because they're just not making them."

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