Most Eastern Europeans celebrate Shrove Thursday AND Shrove Tuesday, known as Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras in the States, with special foods. In the old days, meat, dairy and eggs were abstained from during the entire Lenten period (Orthodox Christians still do this). So ingenious cooks rid their pantries of temptations the week before Ash Wednesday with a climax on Shrove Tuesday of rich, fat-laden feasts that included thick and thin pancakes, deep-fried doughnuts and pastries. While the fasting is usually less rigorous these days, the food traditions survive. Here is more about how Fat Thursday and Fat Tuesday are celebrated in Eastern Europe.
Kukeri is the Bulgarian equivalent of carnival when men parade through villages wearing hairy costumes, masks and large bells designed to scare evil spirits and chase winter away. It's a time for much celebrating and feasting on meats, rich foods and mekitsi, fried doughnuts similar to Serbian krofne, and palachinki similar to Serbian palacinke. In the Bulgarian Orthodox tradition, Lent begins on Zagovezni, the Sunday six weeks before Easter.
Masopust, which loosely means "farewell to meat," is the Czech Shrovetide or carnival, which runs from the Epiphany to Ash Wednesday. Masks and costumes designed to scare away evil spirits and old man winter are worn, and Fat Thursday is celebrated with a Zabijacka, or hog feast. Pork and sauerkraut are eaten in abundance, along with thin crepe-like pancakes known as palacinky (similar to Serbian palacinke), thicker pancakes known as livance and doughnuts known as koblihy (similar to Polish paczki filled with jam or fruit filling, nougat or pastry cream.
Carnival in Lithuania is known as Uzgavenes. Scary masks are worn to frighten away evil spirits and to discourage winter from sticking around. Dollar-size pancakes known as blynai, representing the return of the sun because of their round shape, are eaten with honey or fruit preserves, as well as thinner crepe-like pancakes known as nalesnikiyai, similar to Polish nalesniki, and spurgos, or fried doughnuts, are served.
Carnival season in Poland is celebrated from Twelfth Night until Ash Wednesday. Tłusty Czwartek or Fat Thursday (also known as Shrove Thursday) is when paczki are eaten with abandon. On Shrove Tuesday or Ostatki, pickled herrings and vodka are consumed in great quantities. This is also known as Śledziówka . In the States, Paczki Day is synonymous with Shrove Tuesday. Nalesniki, thin crepe-like pancakes, and angel wings known as chrusciki ("little twigs") or faworki (little favors reminiscent of ribbons knights gave to their ladies fair), are also enjoyed. An overlooked Shrove Tuesday dessert is rozie karnawalowe or carnival rosettes.
Romanians are primarily Orthodox Christians so, llike Serbians, Russians and Ukrainians, they don't celebrate Shrove Tuesday, but Cheesefare Sunday instead. Doughnuts called gogosi or papanasi filled with chocolate, jam, cheese or other fillings are gobbled up. They're similar to Polish paczki. Likewise, clatite, similar to Polish nalesniki are enjoyed.
Carnival in Russia is known as Maslenitsa. This weeklong celebration, also known as Pancake Week, focuses on blini, which are dollar-size yeast-raised pancakes topped with caviar, sour cream and smoked salmon, or sweet toppings. Their round shape and warm serving temperature are evocative of the sun, so desperately wanted by this time of year. Thinner, crepe-like pancakes known as blinchiki and doughnuts called pyshki are also served.
For Orthodox Serbians, Shrove Tuesday doesn't exist. Meatfare Sunday begins one week before Ash Wednesday and is the last day meat and meat byproducts can be consumed. If there is such a thing as a swansong to rich foods, it would be Cheesefare Sunday, which takes place three days before Ash Wednesday, when palacinke and krofne are eaten. So Lent begins on Clean Monday, two days before Roman Catholics and other Christians begin Lent. After this Cheesefare swansong, most Orthodox Christians eat no meat, meat byproducts, poultry, dairy or eggs for the entire Lenten period. Here is a list of foods OK to eat for Serbian Lent and a list of Serbian Lenten recipes.
In Slovakia, Fašiangy (Carnival) takes place from Three Kings' Day to midnight on Shrove Tuesday. As in many other Eastern European countries, there are celebrations with parades of men dressed in wooly costumes and masks to scare away the winter. Feasting centers around slanina (bacon), Šišky, fried doughnuts similar to Polish paczki and pampúchy, similar to Ukrainian / Russian pampushki.