Shrove Tuesday

Shrove Tuesday
Shrove Tuesday
Observed by Followers of many Christian denominations
Type Christian
Date Tuesday in seventh week before Easter
2011 date March 8
2012 date February 21
Related to Ash Wednesday
Mardi Gras

Shrove Tuesday (also known as Pancake Day, Pancake Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, and Mardi Gras) is a term used in English-speaking countries, especially in Ireland, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia,[1] New Zealand, Philippines, Germany, and parts of the United States[2] for the day preceding Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of fasting and prayer called Lent.

The word shrove is the past tense of the English verb to shrive, which means to obtain absolution for one's sins by way of confession and doing penance. During the week before Lent, sometimes called Shrovetide in English, Christians were expected to go to confession in preparation for the penitential season of turning to God. Shrove Tuesday was the last day before the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday, and noted in histories dating back to 1000 AD. The popular celebratory aspect of the day had developed long before the Protestant Reformation, and was associated with releasing high spirits before the somber season of Lent. It is analogous to the continuing Carnival tradition associated with Mardi Gras (and its various names in different countries) that continued separately in European Catholic countries.

In the United States, the term Shrove Tuesday is less widely known outside of people who observe the liturgical traditions of the Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, and Catholic churches.[3][4] Because of the increase in many immigrant populations and traditions since the 19th century, and the rise of highly publicized festivals, Mardi Gras has become more familiar as the designation for that day.

In the United Kingdom and many other countries, the day is often known as Pancake Day. Making and eating such foods was considered a last feast with ingredients such as sugar, fat and eggs, whose consumption was traditionally restricted during the ritual fasting associated with Lent.



Fat Tuesday

All Catholic and some Protestant countries 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. Other countries called it the Tuesday of Carnival, referring to the popular celebration of Carnival that became associated with the feasting.

In Ireland, it 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). The Fastnacht is made from fried potato dough and served with dark corn syrup. In John Updike's novel Rabbit, Run, the main character remembers a Fosnacht Day tradition in which the last person to rise from the table would be teased by the other family members and called a Fosnacht.

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 along side 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 Iceland the day is known as Sprengidagur (Bursting Day) and is marked by eating salt, meat and peas.

In Lithuania the day is called Užgavėnės. People eat pancakes (blynai) and Lithuanian-style doughnuts called spurgos.

In heavily Polish Catholic areas of the United States, such as Chicago and the Detroit suburb of Hamtramck, Michigan, Pączki Day is celebrated with pączki-eating contests, music and other Polish food. However, in Poland this celebration falls on the Thursday which precedes Ash Wednesday and is called Fat Thursday. On that day Poles eat a lot of pączki, which are a Polish version of doughnuts. The Polish name for Fat Thursday is Tłusty Czwartek and since it is not a public holiday, pączki are not only eaten at home, but also at work and school. It is also a day of celebration in catholic parts of Germany to mark the beginning of the carnival parade season, ushered in by women and young girls, hence called "Weiberfastnacht".


Crepes with strawberry syrup and blackcurrants

Pancake Day in English-speaking countries

In the United Kingdom and Ireland, Shrove Tuesday is more commonly known as Pancake Tuesday or Pancake Day.

In Canada, among Anglicans, Lutherans, some other Protestant denominations, including ethnic British communities, as well as Catholics, this day is also known as Pancake Tuesday, as it is customary to eat pancakes.[5][6][7]

Pancakes are associated with the day preceding Lent because they were a way to use up rich foodstuffs 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 Newfoundland and Labrador items 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 be (or marry) a carpenter, and such.[8]


In England, as part of community celebration, many towns held traditional Shrove Tuesday football ('Mob football') games, 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 England. It started at 11:00am with the signalling of a church bell.[9] 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 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, and England in particular, even today. Participants with frying pans race through the streets tossing pancakes into the air, catching them in the pan whilst running.

A pancake race

The tradition of pancake racing had started long before that. The most famous pancake race,[10] at Olney in Buckinghamshire, has been held since 1445. The contestants, traditionally women, carry a frying pan and race to the finishing line while tossing the pancakes as they go. The winner is the first to cross the line having tossed the pancake a certain number of times. Traditionally, when men want to participate, they must dress up as a housewife (usually an apron and a bandanna).

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.[11] A similar race is held in North Somercotes of Lincolnshire in eastern 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.[12]

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

Other traditions

Another traditional food for this season is a sweet fried dumpling called cenci, usually served in the shape of a loose knot (a 5 cm wide, 20 cm long strip of dough one extremity of which is passed through a slit in the middle). In New Orleans and traditional French-speaking communities, such as Prairie du Rocher, Illinois, another traditional food is king cake. Traditionally the man who ate a bean baked in the cake was crowned the community king for Mardi Gras.

A Festy cock is a Scottish dish made of a ball of finely ground meal, wetted and patted, rolled into a pancake shape, then roasted in the hot ashes from a mill kiln. This was a dish to be eaten at Shrovetide.[13]

In Estonia and Finland, the 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.

In Germany, Austria and Slovenia, people traditionally eat rich pastries such as Berliner, krapfen or krof (doughnuts).


The date of Shrove Tuesday is dependent on that of Easter, a moveable feast based on the cycles of the moon. The date can vary from as early as 3 February to as late as 9 March.

Shrove Tuesday will occur on the following dates in coming years:[14]

  • 2011 — 8 March
  • 2012 — 21 February
  • 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


  1. ^ "Easter in Australia". The Australian Government Culture and Recreation Portal. Retrieved 17 November. 
  2. ^ "Pancake Day (Shrove Tuesday)". British Embassy, Washington DC. Archived from the original on 23 February 2007. Retrieved 17 November 2006. 
  3. ^ Walker, -Sue (2002). "Mardi Gras". St. James Encyclopedia of Pop Culture. Retrieved 17 November 2006. 
  4. ^ "National Celebrations: Holidays in the United States". U.S. State Department. Retrieved 17 November 2006. 
  5. ^ "Shrove Tuesday - Pancake Day!". Irish Culture and Customs. Retrieved 17 November 2006. 
  6. ^ "Pancake Day (Shrove Tuesday) in the UK". British Embassy, Washington DC. Archived from the original on 23 February 2007. Retrieved 17 November 2006. 
  7. ^ "Easter in Australia". The Australian Government Culture and Recreation Portal. Retrieved 17 November 2006. 
  8. ^ "Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage". Retrieved 8 March 2011. 
  9. ^ Cooks Guide
  10. ^ 2007 Pancake Race Video
  11. ^ "Liberal wins 60th Int'l Pancake race". United Press International (UPI). Retrieved 30 April 2011. 
  12. ^ (7 February 2008), "Pancake traditions in village", Longridge News, accessed 2010-06-16
  13. ^ Gauldie, Enid (1981). The Scottish Miller 1700 - 1900. Pub. John Donald. ISBN 0-85976-067-7.
  14. ^ Mardi Gras Dates

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Shrove Tuesday — Shrove Shrove, imp. of {Shrive}. [1913 Webster] {Shrove Sunday}, Quinguagesima Sunday. {Shrove Tuesday}, the Tuesday following Quinguagesima Sunday, and preceding the first day of Lent, or Ash Wednesday. Note: It was formerly customary in England …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Shrove Tuesday — ► NOUN ▪ the day before Ash Wednesday, traditionally marked by feasting before the Lenten fast …   English terms dictionary

  • Shrove Tuesday — the last day of Shrovetide, long observed as a season of merrymaking before Lent. [1490 1500; SHROVE + TUESDAY] * * * ▪ Christianity       the day immediately preceding Ash Wednesday (the beginning of Lent in the Christian churches in the West).… …   Universalium

  • Shrove Tuesday — UK [ˌʃrəʊv ˈtjuːzdeɪ] / US [ˈʃroʊv ˌtuzdeɪ] noun [countable/uncountable] Word forms Shrove Tuesday : singular Shrove Tuesday plural Shrove Tuesdays British the Tuesday in February that is the last day before the Christian season of lent. The… …   English dictionary

  • Shrove Tuesday — [[t]ʃro͟ʊv tju͟ːzdeɪ, AM tu͟ːz [/t]] N UNCOUNT Shrove Tuesday is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. People traditionally eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. Syn: Pancake Day …   English dictionary

  • Shrove Tuesday — Shrove Tues|day [ ʃrouv ,tuzdeı ] noun count or uncount BRITISH the Tuesday in February that is MARDI GRAS …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • Shrove Tuesday — Shrove Tues|day [ˌʃrəuv ˈtju:zdi, deı US ˌʃrouv ˈtu:z ] n [U and C] [Date: 1400 1500; Origin: Shrove from shrive (of a Christian priest) to hear and forgive someone s sins (11 21 centuries), from Old English scrifan; SHRIFT] the day before the… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Shrove Tuesday — Shrove′ Tues′day n. rel the last day of Shrovetide • Etymology: 1490–1500 …   From formal English to slang

  • Shrove Tuesday —    The old name given to the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, because on that day every one was accustomed to go to the Priest before beginning the observance of Lent, to be shrived, shriven, shrove, i.e., to confess and be absolved. Certain social… …   American Church Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Shrove Tuesday — noun Etymology: Middle English schroftewesday, from schrof (as in schroftide) + tewesday Tuesday Date: 15th century the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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