The French also have a festival associated with pancakes (crêpes) which is held on February 2 each year. This festival is called Chandeleur and is a celebration of light (the name is derived from the word "chandelle" which also gave the English word "candle". The festival is known as Candlemas in English). It is thought that pancakes are associated to this celebration because of the solar symbolism of their shape and color. A traditional food for Mardi Gras are sweet fried dumplings, cenci, usually served in the shape of a loose knot (a 5cm wide, 20cm long strip of dough one extremity of which is passed through a slit in its middle). In New Orleans the traditional food is king cake.
The reason that pancakes are associated with the day preceding Lent is that the 40 days of Lent form a period of liturgical fasting, during which only the plainest foodstuffs may be eaten. Therefore, rich ingredients such as eggs, milk, and sugar are disposed of immediately prior to the commencement of the fast. Pancakes and doughnuts were therefore an efficient way of using up these perishable goods, besides providing a minor celebratory feast prior to the fast itself
The word shrove is a past tense of the English verb "shrive," which means to obtain absolution for one's sins by confessing and doing penance. Shrove Tuesday gets its name from the shriving (confessing) that Anglo-Saxon Christians were expected to do prior to receiving absolution immediately before Lent.
Shrove Tuesday is the last day of "shrovetide," which is the English equivalent to the Carnival tradition that developed separately out of the countries of Latin Europe. In countries of the Carnival tradition, the day before Ash Wednesday is known either as the "Tuesday of Carnival" (in Spanish-speaking countries, "Martes de Carnaval," in Portuguese-speaking countries, "Terça-feira de Carnaval", in German "Faschingsdienstag") or "Fat Tuesday" (in Portuguese-speaking countries "Terça-feira Gorda", in French-speaking countries, "Mardi Gras," in Italian-speaking countries, "Martedì Grasso", in Sweden, "Fettisdagen"). In Estonian, Vastlapäev.
The term "Shrove Tuesday" is not widely known in the United States, especially in those regions that celebrate Mardi Gras on the day before Ash Wednesday.
In United Kingdom, Ireland,, Australia, New Zealand, India and Canada, Shrove Tuesday is known colloquially as Pancake Day or Pancake Tuesday. The traditional pancake is slightly thicker than a French crêpe. It is served immediately and is traditionally served with a sprinkling of caster sugar (0.35 mm) or granulated sugar, (superfine sugar in the United States) and a dash of fresh lemon juice or with syrup. Many other sweet and savoury toppings are used today (for example, in Canada pancakes are sometimes served with maple syrup).
In Australia, UnitingCare Australia (the social services arm of the Uniting Church in Australia) has advertised Pancake Day as a nation-wide event for the community that raises awareness for the plight of disadvantaged people by raising money for UnitingCare's work.
The Rehab UK Parliamentary Pancake Race also takes place every Shrove Tuesday, with teams from the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the Fourth Estate battling it out for the title of Parliamentary Pancake Race Champions. This light-hearted 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.
"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 Olney 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, some 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.
The tradition is said to have originated when a housewife from Olney 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.
Since 1950 the people of Liberal, Kansas, USA 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.
In North Somercotes in the county of Lincolnshire in Eastern England, a race takes place every year in the village. There are three categories - adults, children from 11 to 16 and under 11s. Each person receives a frying pan and has to race from one end of a field to the other, tossing their pancake at least once every few seconds on the way. As in the Buckinghamshire race, the winner is the first to cross the line, having tossed their pancake several times and with the pancake still in tact.
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!
Another local tradition, the Pancake Greaze, takes place every year at Westminster School in London. A pancake, reinforced with horsehair, is prepared in advance and on Shrove Tuesday tossed into the air "up School". The boys at the school then attempt to get as much of it as they can. See the Customs section of the Westminster School article.
Many towns throughout England 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, but a number of towns have managed to maintain the tradition to the present day including Alnwick in Northumberland, Ashbourne in Derbyshire (called the Royal Shrovetide Football Match), Atherstone (called the Ball Game) in Warwickshire, Sedgefield (called the Ball Game) in County Durham, and St Columb Major (called Hurling the Silver Ball) in Cornwall.
Shrove Tuesday (and Mardi Gras) will occur on the following dates in the following years:(carnevale)