Shrove Tuesday

Shrove Tuesday

Shrove Tuesday, day before Ash Wednesday (the beginning of Lent). In the Latin countries it is the last day of the carnival, called by the French Mardi Gras.
Shrove Tuesday is the term used in Ireland, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada to refer to the day after Shrove Monday (or the more old fashioned Collop Monday) and before Ash Wednesday (the liturgical season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday). In Ireland, the UK, and amongst Anglicans, Lutherans and possibly other Protestant denominations in Canada including Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, this day is also known as Pancake Day, because it is customary to eat pancakes on this day. In other parts of the world—for example, in historically Catholic and French-speaking parts of the United States and elsewhere—this day is called Mardi Gras. In areas with large Polish-immigrant populations (for example, Chicago) it is known as Tłusty Czwartek (literally: Fat Thursday) and celebrated on the Thursday before Lent. And in areas with large German-immigrant populations (for example, Pennsylvania Dutch Country) it is known as Fasnacht Day (also spelled Fausnacht Day and Fauschnaut Day).

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.

Pancake Day

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.

Shrove Tuesday traditions particular to the United Kingdom

On Pancake Day, pancake races are held in villages and towns across the United Kingdom. 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 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!

The Pancake Greaze

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.

Shrove Tuesday Football

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.

Other traditions

  • In the Canadian province of Newfoundland, household objects are baked into the pancakes and served to family members. Rings, thimbles, thread, coins, and other objects all have meanings associated with them. The lucky one to find coins in their pancake will be rich, the finder of the ring will be the first married, and the finder of the thimble will be a seamstress or tailor.
  • In Estonia (Vastlapäev) and Finland (Laskiainen), this day is associated with hopes for the coming year. On this day, families go sledging 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. There is a tale told that if you cut your hair on this day, it will grow fast and thick for the next year.
  • In Germany, Austria and Slovenia people traditionally eat Berliner, Krapfen or Krof.
  • In Hawaii, this day is also known as Malasada Day. Dating back to the days of the sugar plantations in the 1800s, the Portuguese immigrants would need to use up all of their butter and sugar prior to Lent. They did so by making large batches of Malasada (Portuguese Doughnuts), which they would subsequently share with friends from all the other ethnic groups in the plantation camps. This led to the popularity of the Malasada in Hawaii. Still a tradition in Hawaii, Leonard's Bakery would experience long lines to purchase discounted Malasadas on this day.
  • In Iceland the day is known as "Sprengidagur" (Bursting day) and is marked with the eating of salt meat and peas.
  • In Lithuania the day is called Užgavėnės, and many pancakes (blynai) and Lithuanian style doughnuts (spurgos) are eaten.
  • In Michigan, especially in the Hamtramck area near Detroit with a large Polish community, Pączki Day is celebrated with pączki eating contests, music and Polish food.
  • In Pennsylvania, it is a Pennsylvania Dutch tradition to eat a type of doughnuts called Fastnachts (or Fasnachts). The Fastnacht would be made of all the sweets and other soon-to-be-forbidden items in the household and then consumed on Fat Tuesday so that one would not be tempted during the Lenten Fast. Today they are made from potato dough and fried, often coated with a sugary glaze.
  • In the Philippines a popular treat is bibingka, a pancake made from rice flour and topped with white cheese, butter, sugar, salted duck's egg, and coconut. Bibingka is baked on hot coals in a clay pot lined with a banana leaf. It is traditionally served with salabat or ginger tea.
  • In Poland, pączki and faworki are traditionally eaten on Fat Thursday (Tłusty czwartek), i.e. the one before Shrove Tuesday. However, in areas of Michigan with large Polish 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 (wódka) that day.
  • In Sweden the day before Ash Wednesday is known as fettisdagen ("Fat Tuesday") in Swedish. The day is marked by eating a traditional pastry, called semla or fastlagsbulle, which is a sweet bun filled with almond paste and whipped cream. Originally, the pastry was only eaten on this day, served with hot milk, but eventually it became tradition to eat it on every Tuesday leading up to Easter, as the Protestant Swedes no longer observed Lent. Today, semlas are available in shops and bakeries every day from shortly after Christmas until Easter, and the semla is now often eaten as a regular pastry, without the hot milk. The semla is also traditional in Finland but is there usually filled with jam instead of marzipan.


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.

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

  • 202025 February
  • 202116 February
  • 20221 March
  • 202321 February
  • 202413 February
  • 20254 March
  • 202617 February
  • 20279 February
  • 202829 February
  • 202913 February
  • 20305 March
  • 203125 February
  • 203210 February
  • 20331 March
  • 203421 February
  • 20356 February
  • 203626 February
  • 203717 February
  • 20389 March
  • 203922 February
  • 204014 February
  • 20415 March
  • 204218 February
  • 204310 February
  • 20441 March
  • 204521 February
  • 20466 February
  • 204726 February
  • 204818 February
  • 20492 March
  • 205022 February
  • See also


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