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Shrove Tuesday: a day of forgiveness and pancakes


Shrove Tuesday is a day that's celebrated by many Christians around the world before the start of Lent

What is it?

a woman at a confessional

A woman confesses to a priest at her church. (Photo credit: hernanpba on Visual Hunt / CC BY-SA)

The word shrove is the past tense of shrive, which means to confess.

In the Middle Ages, this day was a time for people to confess their sins and ask forgiveness for them. This allowed Christians to enter into the season of Lent and prepare for Easter with a clean spirit.

Shrove Tuesday takes place on a different date each year, depending on when Easter falls.  

Want to know more about Lent? We've got a fun post you can read

How are pancakes involved?

stack of pancakes with syrup being poured on them

Yummy pancakes with syrup for Pancake Day. (Photo credit: emma-louise from Brisbane on Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-ND)

Another way to enjoy Pancake Day is to eat rolled up paper think ones called crepesLong ago, after people went to church to confess their sins on Shrove Tuesday, they often returned home to have a feast. 

One of the dishes that was often made was pancakes. And that tradition has continued today.

In places around the world, including Canada, England, Ireland and Australia, people pig out on pancakes on Shrove Tuesday.

That’s why it’s sometimes known as Pancake Tuesday or Pancake Day. 

Pancake races

kids racing with pancakes in pans

Kids take part in a pancake race in Olney, England. (Photo credit: robinmyerscough on Visual Hunt / CC BY)

Besides making and eating stacks of pancakes, some people in parts of England and some places in the United States have pancake races. They race down streets carrying a frying pan with a cooked pancake in it and flip the pancake as they run.

It’s said this tradition came about from an event dating back to Shrove Tuesday in 1445. A British woman was making pancakes and heard the church bells ring. Rather than be late, she brought her frying pan and pancake to church with her!

Mardi Gras​

Mardi Gras parade with floats

The Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans on Shrove Tuesday. (Photo credit: The Library of Congress on Visual Hunt / No known copyright restrictions)

In Finland they eat buns called laskiaispullat on Shrove TuesdayIn some places, parades are a common sight on Shrove Tuesday.

For instance, in New Orleans, Brazil, Venice and a few cities in France, parades featuring elaborate costumes, masks and flower-covered floats are held on the streets.

The day is called Mardi Gras — meaning Fat Tuesday — because people often eat rich, fatty foods before the Lenten season begins.