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Shrove Tuesday is a term used in Irelandmarker, the United Kingdommarker, Canadamarker, New Zealandmarker, and Australia for the day preceding Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Christian season of fasting and prayer called Lent.

The word shrove is the past tense of the English verb shrive, which means to obtain absolution for one's sins by way of Confession and doing penance. Thus Shrove Tuesday gets its name from the shriving that English Christians were expected to do prior to receiving absolution immediately before Lent begins. Shrove Tuesday is the last day of "shrovetide", a season that developed after the Protestant Reformation, somewhat analogous to the Carnival tradition that continued separately in Catholic countries of Latin Europe. The term "Shrove Tuesday" is no longer widely known in the United States outside of people who observe liturgical traditions such as those of the Lutheran, Episcopal, and Roman Catholic Churches. Because of the increase in many immigrant populations and traditions since the 19th century, and the rise of highly publicized festivals, Mardi Gras has become more familiar as the designation for that day.

In England and many other countries, the festival was widely associated with the eating of rich foods made with eggs, sugar and butter, such as pancakes. It was often known simply as Pancake Day, originally because making such foods used up ingredients such as fat and eggs, whose consumption was traditionally restricted during fasting associated with Lent.


Fat Tuesday

In countries of the Carnival tradition, the day before Ash Wednesday is known either as Fat Tuesday (Portuguese, Terça-feira Gorda; French, Mardi Gras; Italian, Martedì Grasso; Swedish, Fettisdagen; Norwegian, Fastelavens; Estonian, Vastlapäev), or the "Tuesday of Carnival" (Spanish, Martes de Carnaval; Portuguese, Terça-feira de Carnaval; German, Faschingsdienstag). This is in reference to eating special foods before the fasting season of Lent.

For German American populations, such as Pennsylvania Dutch Country, it is known as Fastnacht Day (also spelled Fasnacht, Fausnacht, Fauschnaut, or Fosnacht). The Fastnacht is made from fried potato dough and served with dark corn syrup. In John Updike's novel Rabbit, Run, the main character remembers a Fosnacht Day tradition where the last person to rise would be teased by the other family members and called a "Fosnacht."

In Hawaiimarker, this day is also known as Malasada Day, which dates back to the days of the sugar plantations of the 1800s. The occupying Portuguese used up their butter and sugar prior to Lent by making large batches of malasada (doughnuts).

In Icelandmarker the day is known as Sprengidagur ("Bursting Day") and is marked by the eating of salt meat and peas.

In Lithuaniamarker the day is called Užgavėnės. People eat pancakes (blynai) and Lithuanian-style doughnuts called spurgos.

In heavily Polish areas of the United States, such as Chicagomarker and the Detroitmarker suburb of Hamtramckmarker, Pączki Day is celebrated with pączki eating contests, music and Polish food.

In Swedenmarker, the day is marked by eating a traditional pastry, called semla or fastlagsbulle, a sweet bun filled with almond paste and whipped cream. Originally, the pastry was only eaten on this day sometimes served in a bowl of hot milk. Eventually the tradition evolved to eat the bun on every Tuesday leading up to Easter, as after the Reformation, the Protestant Swedes no longer observed a strict Lent. Today, semlas are available in shops and bakeries every day from shortly after Christmas until Easter. The semla is now often eaten as a regular pastry, without the hot milk. The semla is also traditional in Finlandmarker but they are usually filled with jam instead of almond paste.

Fat Thursday

In Polandmarker and areas with large Polish American, Christian populations (such as Chicagomarker), it is known as Tłusty Czwartek (literally: Fat Thursday) and celebrated on the Thursday before Lent.

In Polandmarker, pączki and faworki are traditionally eaten on Fat Thursday ( ), i.e. the one before Shrove Tuesday. However, in areas of Detroit, Michiganmarker with large Polishmarker communities, they are eaten on "Fat Tuesday" due to French influence. Shrove Tuesday itself is sometimes referred to as "śledzik" ("little herring") and it is customary to have some pickled herring with vodka ( ) that day. Moreover in western Poland (Posen/Poznan area) both Fat Thursday and Shrove Tuesday known as 'Podkoziolek' are celebrated.


Among Anglicans, Lutherans and some other Protestant denominations, and among cultures in Newfoundlandmarker, Nova Scotiamarker, Prince Edward Islandmarker and New Brunswickmarker, this day is also known as Pancake Tuesday, as it is customary to eat pancakes on this day.

Pancakes and doughnuts are associated with the day preceding Lent because they were a way to use up rich foodstuffs such as eggs, milk, and sugar, before the fasting season of the 40 days of Lent. The liturgical fasting emphasized eating plainer food and refraining from food that would give pleasure: In many cultures, this means no meat, dairy, or eggs.

Another holiday associated with pancakes (or in this case crêpes) is a French and Belgian festival called Chandeleur. Held on February 2 each year, this holiday is associated with the presentation of Jesus Christ in the temple. The name is derived from the word chandelle or candle, as candles are lit for this holiday. The French may also eat crêpes for mi-Careme and Mardi Gras. Similar to Chandeleur is Candlemas, which is celebrated by Anglican communities.

Another traditional food for this season is a sweet fried dumpling called cenci, usually served in the shape of a loose knot (a 5 cm wide, 20 cm long strip of dough one extremity of which is passed through a slit in the middle). In New Orleans and French-speaking communities, another traditional food is king cake. Traditionally the community king for Mardi Gras was found by the man who ate a bean baked in the cake.

A Festy cock is a Scottish dish made of a ball of finely ground meal, wetted until patted and rolled into a pancake shape, then roasted in the hot ashes from a mill kiln. This was a dish to be eaten at Shrovetide.

In Estoniamarker (Vastlapäev) and Finlandmarker (Laskiainen), this day is associated with hopes for the coming year. On this day, families go sledding and eat split pea and ham soup. A toy is made from the ham bone by tying the bone to a string and spinning it around to make a whistling noise. Finns also share the tradition of the marzipan and cream filled pastry with Swedes, although often the marzipan is replaced with strawberry jam. Finnish name for it is laskiaispulla. It is most often accompanied with hot red or black currant drink or sometimes, for adults, glögi - a heated mulled wine. In Germanymarker, Austriamarker and Sloveniamarker people traditionally eat rich pastries such as Berliner, krapfen or krof.

Many towns throughout Englandmarker held traditional Shrove Tuesday football ('Mob football') games dating as far back as the 12th century. The practice mostly died out with the passing of the Highway Act 1835, which banned the playing of football on public highways. A number of towns have managed to maintain the tradition to the present day including Alnwickmarker in Northumberlandmarker, Ashbournemarker in Derbyshiremarker (called the Royal Shrovetide Football Match), Atherstonemarker (called the Ball Game) in Warwickshiremarker, Sedgefieldmarker (called the Ball Game) in County Durham, and St Columb Majormarker (called Hurling the Silver Ball) in Cornwallmarker.

Shrove Tuesday was once known as a 'half-holiday' in England. It started at 11:00 a.m. with the signalling of a church bell. On Pancake Day, pancake races are held in villages and towns across the United Kingdom. The tradition is said to have originated when a housewife from Olneymarker was so busy making pancakes that she forgot the time until she heard the church bells ringing for the service. She raced out of the house to church while still carrying her frying pan and pancake.

In 1634 William Fennor wrote in his Palinodia:
"And tosse their Pancakes up for feare they burne."
But the tradition of pancake racing had started long before that. The most famous pancake race , at Olneymarker in Buckinghamshire, has been held since 1445. The contestants, traditionally women, carry a frying pan and race to the finishing line tossing the pancakes as they go. As the pancakes are thin, skill is required to toss them successfully while running. The winner is the first to cross the line having tossed the pancake a certain number of times.

Since 1950 the people of Liberalmarker, Kansasmarker, and Olney have held the "International Pancake Day" race between the two towns. The two towns' competitors race along an agreed-upon course, and the times of all of the two towns' competitors are compared, to determine a winner. After the 2000 race, Liberal was leading with 26 wins to Olney's 24.. A similar race is held in North Somercotesmarker of Lincolnshire in eastern England.

Also, in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, the foreshore road (beach) is closed off, schools close early and all residents are invited to skip in the road.

Pancake Day

In the United Kingdommarker and the Republic of Irelandmarker, Shrove Tuesday is often known colloquially as Pancake Day or Pancake Tuesday. The traditional pancake is slightly thicker than a French crêpe. It is served immediately after preparation and was traditionally served with a meat-based stew, although in modern times a sprinkling of granulated sugar (fine sugar in the United States), or caster sugar (superfine sugar in the United States), and lemon juice has become more common. Many other sweet and savoury toppings are used today (for example, in Canada pancakes are often served with maple syrup or preserves). On Pancake Tuesday, some Irish immigrants in the United States, and their descendants, make pancakes with meat mixed into the batter, which results in pancakes with slices of sausage (or, often, even slices of hot dogs) that are fried into the cake.

In Australia, UnitingCare Australia, the social services arm of the Uniting Church in Australia, has used Pancake Day to raise money for their work.

The Rehab UK Parliamentary Pancake Race also takes place every Shrove Tuesday, with teams from the House of Commonsmarker, the House of Lordsmarker and the Fourth Estate (press media) battling it out for the title of Parliamentary Pancake Race Champions. This relay race is held to raise awareness of the work of national brain injury charity Rehab UK and the needs of people with acquired brain injury.

National Pancake Day Fundraiser

In 2006, the International House of Pancakes (IHOP) launched a nationwide fundraising effort dubbed National Pancake Day Now an annual event, IHOP’s National Pancake Day takes place each year during the month of February in honor of the Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras) tradition. On National Pancake Day, people can visit their local IHOP and receive a free short stack of buttermilk pancakes, and in return, they are asked to make a voluntary contribution to Children’s Miracle Network or other local charities. Including National Pancake Day 2009, the free pancake fundraiser has raised over $3.25 million for charity.

The Pancake Greaze

Another local tradition, the Pancake Greaze, takes place every year at Westminster School in Londonmarker. A pancake, reinforced with horsehair, is prepared in advance and on Shrove Tuesday tossed into the air "up School". The pancake, thrown by a cook, must fly over a special metal bar. The boys at the school then fight to hold the largest section of pancake at the end of a set period of time. The winner is the boy with the largest section of pancake, which is determined by weighing the pieces of pancake with special scales.


Mardi Gras Flag
The date can vary from as early as February 3 to as late as March 9. As it is the last day before the start of Lent, the date is dependent on that of Easter, which is based on the cycles of the moon.

Shrove Tuesday (and Mardi Gras) will occur on the following dates in the following years:

See also


  1. Gauldie, Enid (1981). The Scottish Miller 1700 - 1900. Pub. John Donald. ISBN 0-85976-067-7.
  2. Cooks Guide
  3. 2007 Pancake Race Video
  4. UnitingCare's Pancake Day [1] accessed 18 February 2007
  5. Rehab UK website
  6. Mardi Gras Dates

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