In the Christian calendar, Shrove Tuesday is the English name for the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, which in turn marks the beginning of Lent. In many solidly Roman Catholic countries in Europe and the Americas, this is the last day of Carnival (known as shrovetide in English). In some historically Francophone places it is Mardi Gras, French for Fat Tuesday; the most famous Shrove Tuesday celebration is the Brazilian Carnival.

It is also known as Pancake Day or Pancake Tuesday in Britain, Ireland, Australia, and Canada.

The origin of the word shrove lies in the archaic English verb "to shrive" which means to absolve people of their sins. It was common in the Middle Ages for "shriveners" (priests) to hear people's confessions at this time, to prepare them for Lent.

Shrove Tuesday food in different countries and regions Edit

In Ireland, Australia, and Canada, Shrove Tuesday is known as Pancake Tuesday, while in Britain it is popularly known as Pancake Day. In both regions the traditional pancake is a very thin one (like a French crêpe) which is served immediately sprinkled with caster sugar (confectionary, superfine or powdered sugar in the United States) and a dash of fresh lemon juice or alternatively drizzled with golden syrup.

Pancakes were traditionally allowed to be made between the ringing of a curfew bell in the morning of Shrove Tuesday and its ringing again that evening. Housewives had that time in which to use up all the eggs and fat they had left over. Until the early 1900s, Shrove Tuesday was a half-day holiday, and the "Shriving Bell" was rung at eleven o'clock in the morning to remind people that the holiday had begun. It became known in some parts as the "Pancake Bell", and it is still rung today even though the day is no longer a holiday.

Originally, pancakes were eaten to use up milk and eggs, which traditionally were not eaten during Lent and would otherwise spoil during this period. Pancakes first appeared in English cookbooks in the 15th century. In Britain and Ireland in particular, a number of traditions have grown up around the eating of pancakes. Some people in Britain know the day only by the name "Pancake Day" and some are even unaware of the day's connection to Lent.

In recent years, the North American restaurant chain International House of Pancakes has run a "National Pancake Day" promotion; in 2006 patrons were entitled to a free "short stack" of IHOP pancakes.

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. Children have great fun with the tradition, and often eat more than their fill of pancakes in search of a desired object.

In Sweden Shrove Tuesday is known, just as in France, as "Fat Tuesday", or fettisdagen in Swedish. The day is marked by eating a traditional pastry, called semla or "shrovetide bun", filled with marzipan 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 sometimes filled with jam instead of marzipan.

In Italy, lasagne is a traditional dish for this time of year.

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 Estonia (Vastlapäev) and Finland (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. 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 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 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 Poland, Pączki are traditionally eaten on Fat Thursday (Tłusty czwartek). However, in areas of Michigan with large Polish communities, they are eaten on "Fat Tuesday" due to French influence.

Shrove Tuesday traditions in England Edit

A famous pancake race at Olney in Buckinghamshire has been held since 1445. The contestants, traditionally women, carry a frying pan (skillet) 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.

In 1634 William Fennor wrote in his Palinodia "And every man and maide doe take their turne, And tosse their Pancakes up for feare they burne." But the tradition of pancake racing had started long before that. The tradition is said to have originated in the town of Olney, England. It is said that in 1445 a housewife from Olney was so busy making pancakes that the curfew bell took her completely by surprise. She ran out of the house to church still carrying the frying pan in her hand.

The Olney race is still held today; in fact, it has now gone international. Since 1950 the people of Liberal, Kansas, USA and Olney have held the "International Pancake Day" race between the two towns. The winner is the first woman to reach the church; she gets a "Kiss of Peace" from the verger there.

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 1835 Highways Act, 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 in Warwickshire,Sedgefield (called the Ball Game) in County Durham, and St Columb Major (called Hurling the Silver Ball) in Cornwall.

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.

Dates Edit

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:

See also Edit

External linkEdit

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