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Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day takes place on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent). On this day (so the historians say) there were feasts of pancakes to use up the supplies of fat, butter and eggs... foods that were forbidden during Lent. The tradition of eating pancakes probably derives from the practice of feasting before a fast. Lent is a time of self-discipline and denial, which means doing without some of the things that you like and enjoy. Throughout the forty days of Lent, people are called to fasting and prayer.
The name Shrove Tuesday comes from the old custom of ringing a special bell – known as the ‘shriving bell’ - to summon the people to church to be ‘shriven’, that is, to confess their sins at the beginning of Lent. The bell became known as the Pancake Bell, reminding everyone to use up the 'forbidden foods' before Lent.
Shrove Tuesday is also known as "Fat Tuesday" or "Mardi Gras," Mardi Gras is celebrated with dancing, feasting, parades and merrymaking mainly in countries such as Spain, Italy, Portugal. Two of the most famous celebrations take place in Rio Janeiro, Brazil, and in New Orleans, in the United States. Celebrations move through the streets of these cities until midnight on Shrove Tuesday when Ash Wednesday comes and Lent begins.
The last three or four days before the beginning of Lent is known as Shrovetide. The names for these days were:
Egg Saturday - In Oxford the Saturday before Shrove Tuesday was called Egg Saturday because pasch eggs used to be provided for the students on that day. The word 'pasch' means Easter in European countries and it derives from the word Pesach, the Hebrew Passover which falls at the same time of year.
Sunday - quinquagesima means 50th and this day is the 50th day before
Collop Monday - is the Monday before Shrove Tuesday, so called because a dish of fried eggs and bacon, and slices of salted, dried meat, called collops was eaten on that day in the North of England before the Lenten fast.
Click here to read about pancake racing.
Click here for more information about Pancake Day
Background by Dianne Davies