Pieter Bruegel the Elder: The Fight Between Carnival and Lent, 1559
|Observed by||Followers of many Christian denominations and common custom|
|Date||Tuesday in seventh week before Easter|
|2012 date||21 February|
|2013 date||12 February|
|2014 date||4 March|
|Related to||Ash Wednesday
The expression "Shrove Tuesday" comes from the word shrive, meaning "confess." Related popular practices are associated with celebrations before the fasting and religious obligations associated with the penitential season of Lent. The term Mardi gras is French for Fat Tuesday, referring to the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season, which begins on Ash Wednesday.
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 custom for Christians to be "shriven" before the start of Lent. Shrove Tuesday is the last day of "shrovetide", somewhat analogous to the Carnival tradition that developed separately in countries of Latin Europe. The term "Shrove Tuesday" is no longer widely used in the United States or Canada outside Liturgical Traditions, such as the Lutheran, Episcopal and Roman Catholic Churches.
- In the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, Shrove Tuesday is also commonly known as "Pancake Day" or "Pancake Tuesday" due to the tradition of eating pancakes on the day. Northern Ireland is the only region of the UK that celebrates Shrove Tuesday as a holiday in lieu of working on Good Friday, unlike the rest of the UK take their holiday on Good Friday and Easter Monday.
- Catholic and Protestant countries (outside those mentioned above) traditionally call the day before Ash Wednesday "Fat Tuesday" or "Mardi Gras". The name predated the Reformation and referred to the common Christian tradition of eating special rich foods before the fasting season of Lent.
- In Ireland the day is known as Máirt Inide (meaning, in Irish, "Shrovetide Tuesday"), and Pancake Tuesday.
- For German American populations, such as Pennsylvania Dutch Country, it is known as Fastnacht Day (also spelled Fasnacht, Fausnacht, Fauschnaut, or Fosnacht).
- In Portuguese-, Spanish- and Italian-speaking countries, amongst others, it is known as Carnival (to use the English spelling). This derives from the words carne levare (to take away meat) and thus to another aspect of the Lenten fast. It is often celebrated with street processions and/or fancy dress. The most famous of these events is the Brazilian Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, while the Venetians celebrate carnival with a masquerade. The use of the term 'carnival' in other contexts derives from here.
- On the Portuguese island of Madeira they eat Malasadas on Terça-feira Gorda (Fat Tuesday in English) which is also the last day of the Carnival of Madeira. The reason for making malasadas was to use up all the lard and sugar in the house, in preparation for Lent (much in the same way the tradition of Pancake Day in the UK originated on Shrove Tuesday). Malasadas are sold alongside the Carnival of Madeira. This tradition was taken to Hawaii, where Shrove Tuesday is known as Malasada Day, which dates back to the days of the sugar plantations of the 1800s, the resident Catholic Portuguese (mostly from Madeira and the Azores) workers used up butter and sugar prior to Lent by making large batches of malasadas.
- In Denmark and Norway the day is known as Fastelavn and is marked by eating fastelavnsboller. Fastelavn is the name for Carnival in Denmark which is either the Sunday or Monday before Ash Wednesday. Fastelavn developed from the Roman Catholic tradition of celebrating in the days before Lent, but after Denmark became a Protestant nation, the holiday became less specifically religious. This holiday occurs seven weeks before Easter Sunday, with children dressing up in costumes and gathering treats for the Fastelavn feast. The holiday is generally considered to be a time for children's fun and family games. (see Carnival in Denmark)
- In Iceland the day is known as Sprengidagur (Bursting Day) and is marked by eating salted meat and peas.
- In Lithuania the day is called Užgavėnės. People eat pancakes (blynai) and Lithuanian-style doughnuts called spurgos.
- In Sweden the day is called Fettisdagen (Fat Tuesday) and is generally celebrated by eating a type of pastry called semla.
- In Finland the day is called laskiainen and is generally celebrated by eating green pea soup and a pastry called laskiaispulla (sweet bread filled with whipped cream and jam or almond paste). The celebration often includes sledging.
- In Estonia the day is called Vastlapäev and is generally celebrated by eating pea soup and whipped-cream filled buns called vastlakukkel.
- In Poland this celebration falls on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday and is called tłusty czwartek or Fat Thursday. In some areas of the United States with large Polish communities, such as Chicago, Buffalo and the Detroit enclave of Hamtramck, Pączki Day is celebrated with pączki-eating contests, music and other Polish food. It may be held on Shrove Tuesday or in the days immediately preceding it.
- In some parts of Switzerland (e.g. Lucerne) the day is called Güdisdienstag, preceded by Güdismontag. According to the Duden (semi-official dictionary of the German language), the term derives from "Güdel", which means a fat stomach full of food.
Pancakes are associated with the day preceding Lent because they were a way to use up rich foods 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.
In Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, Ireland and New Zealand the day is also known as "Pancake Day" as it is a common custom to eat pancakes as a meal. In the United Kingdom, Pancake Day is also an annual feature on the children's television show Blue Peter.
In Newfoundland small tokens are frequently cooked in the pancakes. Children take delight in discovering the objects, which are intended to be divinatory. For example, the person who receives a coin will be wealthy; a nail that they will become or marry a carpenter.
In England, as part of community celebration, many towns held traditional Shrove Tuesday "mob football" games, some dating as far back as the 12th century. The practice mostly died out in the 19th century after the passing of the Highway Act 1835 which banned playing football on public highways. A number of towns have maintained the tradition, 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 was once known as a "half-holiday" in Britain. It started at 11:00am with the ringing 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 Olney, Buckinghamshire, 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. The pancake race remains a relatively common festive tradition in the UK, especially England, even today. Participants with frying pans race through the streets tossing pancakes into the air and catching them in the pan whilst running.
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 over a 415 yard course to the finishing line. The rules are strict: contestants have to toss their pancake at both the start and the finish, as well as wear an apron and a scarf. Traditionally, when men want to participate, they must dress up as a housewife (usually an apron and a bandanna). The race is followed by a church service.
Since 1950 the people of Liberal, Kansas, and Olney have held the "International Pancake Day" race between the two towns. The two towns' competitors race along an agreed-upon measured course. The times of the two towns' competitors are compared to determine a winner overall. After the 2009 race, Liberal was leading with 34 wins to Olney's 25. A similar race is held in North Somercotes in Lincolnshire, England.
Scarborough celebrates by closing the foreshore to all traffic, closing schools early, and inviting all to skip. Traditionally, long ropes were used from the nearby harbour. The town crier rings the pancake bell, situated on the corner of Westborough (main street) and Huntress Row.
The children of the hamlet of Whitechapel, Lancashire keep alive a local tradition by visiting local households and asking "please a pancake", to be rewarded with oranges or sweets. It is thought the tradition arose when farm workers visited the wealthier farm and manor owners to ask for pancakes or pancake fillings.
In London, the Rehab Parliamentary Pancake Race takes place every Shrove Tuesday, with teams from the British lower house (the House of Commons), the upper house (the House of Lords), and the Fourth Estate, contending for the title of Parliamentary Pancake Race Champions. The fun relay race is to raise awareness of Rehab, which provides a range of health and social care, training, education, and employment services in the UK for disabled people and others who are marginalised. In 2009 the Upper House won. The race was then won by the Lower House in 2010 with the Upper House reclaiming their winning title in 2011. In 2012, the Lower House were crowned the pancake flipping champions and they reclaimed their title for the second year running in 2013.
Shrove Tuesday will occur on these dates in coming years:
- 2013 — 12 February
- 2014 — 4 March
- 2015 — 17 February
- 2016 — 9 February
- 2017 — 28 February
- 2018 — 13 February
- 2019 — 5 March
- 2020 — 25 February
- 2021 — 16 February
- 2022 — 1 March
- 2023 — 21 February
- 2024 — 13 February
- 2025 — 4 March
- 2026 — 17 February
- 2027 — 9 February
- 2028 — 29 February
- 2029 — 13 February
- 2030 — 5 March
- 2031 — 25 February
- 2032 — 10 February
- 2033 — 1 March
- 2034 — 21 February
- 2035 — 6 February
- 2036 — 26 February
- 2037 — 17 February
- 2038 — 9 March
- 2039 — 22 February
- 2040 — 14 February
- 2041 — 5 March
- 2042 — 18 February
- 2043 — 10 February
- 2044 — 1 March
- 2045 — 21 February
- 2046 — 6 February
- 2047 — 26 February
- 2048 — 18 February
- 2049 — 2 March
- 2050 — 22 February
See also 
- Bonfire of the Vanities
- Carnival of Madeira
- Clean Monday
- Collop Monday
- Hurling the Silver Ball
- Mardi Gras
- Mardi Gras in Mobile — United States French-Catholic festival
- Fat Thursday
- Nickanan Night
- Powder Day
- Royal Shrovetide Football
- Shrove Monday
- Melitta Weiss Adamson, Francine Segan (2008). Entertaining from Ancient Rome to the Super Bowl. ABC-CLIO. "In Anglican countries, Mardis Gras is known as Shrove Tuesday-from shrive meaning "confess"-or Pancake Day"-after the breakfast food that symbolizes one final hearty meal of eggs, butter, and sugar before the fast. On Ash Wednesday, the morning after Mardi Gras, repentant Christians return to church to receive upon the forehead the sign of the cross in ashes."
- Thurston, Herbert. "Shrovetide." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 6 Jan. 2013
- Walker, -Sue (2002). "Mardi Gras". St. James Encyclopedia of Pop Culture. Retrieved 17 November 2006.
- "National Celebrations: Holidays in the United States". U.S. State Department. Retrieved 17 November 2006.
- "Shrove Tuesday - Pancake Day!". Irish Culture and Customs. Retrieved 17 November 2006.
- "Pancake Day (Shrove Tuesday) in the UK". British Embassy, Washington DC. Archived from the original on 23 February 2007. Retrieved 17 November 2006.
- "Easter in Australia". The Australian Government Culture and Recreation Portal. Retrieved 17 November 2006.
- "Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage". Retrieved 8 March 2011.
- Cooks Guide
- "The origin of pancake racing", BBC
- 2007 Pancake Race Video
- "Liberal wins 60th Int'l Pancake race". United Press International (UPI). Retrieved 30 April 2011.
- (7 February 2008), "Pancake traditions in village", Longridge News, accessed 2010-06-16
- Mardi Gras Dates
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Shrove Tuesday|
- Wilson's Almanac: Sources and quotes concerning Shrove Tuesday customs