Shrove Tuesday

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Shrove Tuesday
Pieter Bruegel the Elder- The Fight between Carnival and Lent detail 3.jpg
Observed by Followers of many Christian denominations and common custom
Type Christian
Date In seventh week before Easter, day before Ash Wednesday
2017 date February 28
2018 date February 13
Frequency annual
Related to Ash Wednesday
Mardi Gras

Shrove Tuesday (also known in Commonwealth countries as Pancake Tuesday or Pancake day) is the day in February or March immediately preceding Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent), which is celebrated in some countries by consuming pancakes. In others, especially those where it is called Mardi Gras or some translation thereof, this is a carnival day, and also the last day of "fat eating" or "gorging" before the fasting period of Lent.

This moveable feast is determined by Easter. The expression "Shrove Tuesday" comes from the word shrive, meaning "absolve".[1] Shrove Tuesday is observed by many Christians, including Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists and Roman Catholics,[2] who "make a special point of self-examination, of considering what wrongs they need to repent, and what amendments of life or areas of spiritual growth they especially need to ask God's help in dealing with."[3]

Being the last day of the liturgical season historically known as Shrovetide, before the penitential season of Lent, related popular practices, such as indulging in food that one sacrifices for the upcoming forty days, are associated with Shrove Tuesday celebrations, before commencing the fasting and religious obligations associated with 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.


It is probably impossible to know when the tradition of marking the start of Lent began. Ælfric of Eynsham's "Ecclesiastical Institutes" of about A.D. 1000 includes: "In the week immediately before Lent everyone shall go to his confessor and confess his deeds and the confessor shall so shrive him as he then may hear by his deeds what he is to do [in the way of penance]".[4] Pancakes are commonly eaten on this day as they, in Christianity, symbolize "four pillars of the Christian faith--eggs for creation, flour as the mainstay of the human diet, salt for wholesomeness and milk for purity."[5] Since foods such as butter, eggs and fat are discouraged from being eaten during the Lenten season, Christians use these ingredients during Shrovetide to make pancakes or other rich foods, such as fasnachts and pączkis.[6] The specific custom of Christians eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday dates to the 16th century Anno Domini.[6][5] Along with its emphasis on feasting, another theme of Shrove Tuesday involves Christians repenting of their sins in preparation to begin the season of Lent in the Christian kalendar.[7] In many Christian parish churches, both Protestant and Roman Catholic, a popular Shrove Tuesday tradition is the ringing of the church bells (on this day, the toll is known as the Shriving Bell) "to call the faithful to confession before the solemn season of Lent" and for housewives to "begin frying their pancakes".[8][9]


Russian artist Boris Kustodiev's Maslenitsa (1916)
Shrove Tuesday, Bear guiding (pl) in Poland (1950)

The word shrove is a form of the English word 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.[10] Shrove Tuesday is the last day of "shrovetide", somewhat analogous to the Carnival tradition that developed separately in countries of Latin Europe.

  • In the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and Canada, Shrove Tuesday is alternatively known as "Pancake Day" or "Pancake Tuesday" due to the tradition of eating pancakes on the day.
  • 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.
  • For German American populations, such as Pennsylvania Dutch Country, it is known as Fastnacht Day (also spelled Fasnacht, Fausnacht, Fauschnaut, or Fosnacht).
  • In Germany, it is known as Fastnachtsdienstag (also spelled Faschingsdienstag, or Karnevalsdienstag) or Veilchendienstag (violet [the flower] Tuesday). It is often celebrated with street processions (called Karnevalsumzüge) or fancy dress. The processions are typically smaller than the ones on Rosenmontag. In Kindergartens and most Elementary Schools it is celebrated with fancy dress. When celebrated in schools, it is normally handled as a kind of half-holiday: classes are off and the school day begins some hours later.
  • In the Netherlands, it is known as "vastenavond", or in Limburgish dialect "vastelaovond", though the word "vastelaovond" usually refers to the entire period of carnival in the Netherlands.
  • In Portuguese-, Spanish- and Italian-speaking countries, among others, it is known as Carnival (to use the English spelling). This derives from Medieval Latin carnelevamen ("the putting away of flesh")[11] and thus to another aspect of the Lenten fast. It is often celebrated with street processions 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. In Spain, the Carnival Tuesday is named "día de la tortilla" ("omelette day"): an omelette made with some sausage or pork fat is eaten.[citation needed]
  • 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, also known as Semla. 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 or fastlagsbulle.
  • 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, same as the Swedish semla). The celebration often includes sledging.
  • In Estonia, the day is called Vastlapäev and is generally celebrated by eating pea soup and whipped-cream or whipped-cream and jam filled sweet-buns called vastlakukkel, similar to the Swedish semla. Children also typically go sledding on this day.
  • In Poland, a related celebration falls on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday and is called tłusty czwartek (Fat Thursday).
  • In Slovenia, Kurentovanje is also the biggest and best known carnival in Slovenia. There are several more local carnivals: for example in west Slovenia, a very well known carnival takes place in Cerkno. This carnival is usually referred to as Laufarija.
  • In some parts of Switzerland (e.g. Lucerne), the day is called Güdisdienstag, preceded by Güdismontag. According to the Duden dictionary, the term derives from "Güdel", which means a fat stomach full of food Güdeldienstag.[12]
  • In some areas of the United States, with large Polish communities, such as Chicago, Buffalo and Michigan, Tłusty Czwartek is celebrated with pączki or faworki eating contests, music and other Polish food. It may be held on Shrove Tuesday or in the days immediately preceding it.[13]
  • In Hungary, and the Hungarian-speaking territories, it is called Húshagyókedd (hu) (literally the Tuesday leaving the meat) and in certain more traditional regions it is celebrated by dressing up in home-made costumes, especially kids, and visiting the neighbours.
  • India, in Vasai (Bassein), it is known as Hithrooz and is celebrated with drinks and home cooked meat recipes.


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. In addition, pancakes, in Christianity, symbolize "four pillars of the Christian faith--eggs for creation, flour as the mainstay of the human diet, salt for wholesomeness and milk for purity."[5] The liturgical fasting emphasized eating plainer food and refraining from food that would give pleasure: in many cultures, this means no meat, dairy products, or eggs.

In Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and Ireland the day is also known as "Pancake Day" as it is a common custom to eat pancakes as a meal.[14][15][16]

In Newfoundland and Cape Breton Island 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 indicates that they will become or marry a carpenter.[17][18]


A pancake race in England

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

Shrove Tuesday was once known as a "half-holiday" in Britain. It started at 11:00am with the ringing of a church bell.[19] On Pancake Day, "pancake races" are held in villages and towns across the United Kingdom. The tradition is said to have originated in 1445 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, tossing it to prevent it from burning.[20][21] 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 while running.

The most famous pancake race,[22] at Olney in Buckinghamshire, has been held since 1445. The contestants, traditionally women, carry a frying pan and race 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.[20]

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.[23] 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.[24]

In Scandinavia, in particular in Finland and Sweden, the day is associated with the almond paste-filled semla pastry.

Pancakes are traditional in Christian festivals in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia also at this time of year (Maslenitsa).

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 retained their title for the second year running in 2013. The House of Lords won it back in 2014. However, at long last in 2015 the Media team finally won the title.


Shrove Tuesday is exactly 47 days before Easter Sunday, a moveable feast based on the cycles of the moon. The date can be any between 3 February and 9 March inclusive.

Shrove Tuesday occurs on these dates:[25]

  • 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
  • 2051 – 14 February
  • 2052 – 5 March
  • 2053 – 18 February
  • 2054 – 10 February
  • 2055 – 2 March
  • 2056 – 15 February
  • 2057 – 6 March
  • 2058 – 26 February
  • 2059 – 11 February
  • 2060 – 2 March
  • 2061 – 22 February
  • 2062 – 7 February
  • 2063 – 27 February
  • 2064 – 19 February
  • 2065 – 10 February
  • 2066 – 23 February
  • 2067 – 15 February
  • 2068 – 6 March
  • 2069 – 26 February
  • 2070 – 11 February
  • 2071 – 3 March
  • 2072 – 23 February
  • 2073 – 7 February
  • 2074 – 27 February
  • 2075 – 19 February
  • 2076 – 3 March
  • 2077 – 23 February
  • 2078 – 15 February
  • 2079 – 7 March
  • 2080 – 20 February
  • 2081 – 11 February
  • 2082 – 3 March
  • 2083 – 16 February
  • 2084 – 8 February
  • 2085 – 27 February
  • 2086 – 12 February
  • 2087 – 4 March
  • 2088 – 24 February
  • 2089 – 15 February
  • 2090 – 28 February
  • 2091 – 20 February
  • 2092 – 12 February
  • 2093 – 24 February
  • 2094 – 16 February
  • 2095 – 8 March
  • 2096 – 28 February
  • 2097 – 12 February
  • 2098 – 4 March
  • 2099 – 24 February
  • 2100 – 9 February

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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 Tuesday"-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. 
  2. ^ Shrove Tuesday inspires unique church traditions KATIE WALKER 7 March 2011
  3. ^ Shrove Tuesday DARREN PROVINE 1 March 2014
  4. ^ "CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Shrovetide". Retrieved 1 August 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c Ross, Philip (17 February 2015). "Pancake Day 2015: The History And Meaning Of 'Shrove Tuesday' And What Makes The Perfect Pancake". International Business Times. Retrieved 19 February 2017. 
  6. ^ a b Collins, Tony; Martin, John; Vamplew, Wray (2005). Encyclopedia of Traditional British Rural Sports. Psychology Press. p. 202. ISBN 9780415352246. The association between pancakes and Shrove Tuesday appears to have its origins in the fact that the pancakes used up food such as butter, eggs and fat that were prohibited during Lent, which begins the following day on Ash Wednesday. ... Pancakes have been eaten on Shrove Tuesday since at least the sixteenth century. In some parishes it was the custom for the church bell to ring at noon as the signal for people to begin frying their pancakes. 
  7. ^ Stephens, Valerie. Basic Philosophy. p. 21. ISBN 9781329951747. Then there is Shrove Tuesday, which is the day observed before Ash Wednesday or Lent. Shrove Tuesday derives from the days where the earliest practicing Christians would repent of their sins and be “shriven” or pardoned. 
  8. ^ Cocks, Alfred Heneage (1897). The church bells of Buckinghamshire: their inscriptions, founders, and uses, and traditions; &c. Jarrold & sons. p. 276. 
  9. ^ Pulleyn, William (1828). The Etymological Compendium, Or Portfolio of Origins and Inventions. Richard Griffin and Company. p. 192. 
  10. ^ "CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Shrovetide". Retrieved 2 October 2014. 
  11. ^ American Heritage Dictionary
  12. ^ "Güdeldienstag". Duden. Retrieved 9 February 2016. 
  13. ^ [1] Archived 16 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ "Shrove Tuesday – Pancake Day!". Irish Culture and Customs. Retrieved 17 November 2006. 
  15. ^ "Pancake Day (Shrove Tuesday) in the UK". British Embassy, Washington DC. Archived from the original on 23 February 2007. Retrieved 17 November 2006. 
  16. ^ "Easter in Australia". The Australian Government Culture and Recreation Portal. Retrieved 17 November 2006. 
  17. ^ "Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage". Retrieved 8 March 2011. 
  18. ^ "Its Shrove Tuesday and Pancake Day". Cape Breton Post. 
  19. ^ "Cooks Guide". Cooks Guide. Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  20. ^ a b "The origin of pancake racing". Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  21. ^ "Olney Pancake Race". Retrieved 17 February 2015. 
  22. ^ 2007 Archived 6 February 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  23. ^ "Liberal wins 60th Int'l Pancake race". United Press International (UPI). Retrieved 30 April 2011. 
  24. ^ (7 February 2008), "Pancake traditions in village", Longridge News, accessed 16 June 2010
  25. ^ "Mardi Gras Dates". 30 January 2009. Retrieved 28 February 2014. 

External links[edit]