Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, and Paczki Day are some of the pre-Lent celebrations that I am aware of. As a Polish Roman Catholic, I am most familiar with and celebrate Paczki Tuesday.
I will do my best to tell you how to pronounce this word phonetically.
•Singular noun is Paczek (pohn-check)
•Plural noun is Paczki (punch-key or poonch-key)
Paczki are a yeast dough that is fried then filled with custard, raspberry, apricot, or prune, and is covered with sugar or a glaze. While this Polish sweet treat resembles a bismarck, the dough of a Paczki is much richer.
My mother was Irish, and my father Polish we lived in a Polish neighborhood that provided all of our shopping needs within walking distance. Our Paczki always came from the Polish bakery that was just down the street. Some of my friends' parents' and grandparents' would prepare Paczki and serve them hot from the frier. I have had the pleasure of many warm homemade Paczki. Thank you, Mrs. Semasko and Mrs. Werenski.
It seems that before the start of the Lenten season all of the lard, eggs, and sugar needed to be used up before the fast began, and so began Paczki Day. This is the story that I was told as a child, this is what I have told my children, and what they are now telling their children.
I have ordered my Paczki and will picking them up in the morning so I can have a cup of coffee and a prune Paczki.
If Paczki are available in your area, perhaps you might give them a try.