Shrove Tuesday

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Shrove Tuesday
Pieter Bruegel the Elder- The Fight between Carnival and Lent detail 3.jpg
Observed byFollowers of many Christian denominations and common custom
DateTuesday in seventh week before Easter, day before Ash Wednesday
2012 dateFebruary 21
2013 dateFebruary 12
2014 dateMarch 4
2015 dateFebruary 17
Related toAsh Wednesday
Mardi Gras
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Shrove Tuesday
Pieter Bruegel the Elder- The Fight between Carnival and Lent detail 3.jpg
Observed byFollowers of many Christian denominations and common custom
DateTuesday in seventh week before Easter, day before Ash Wednesday
2012 dateFebruary 21
2013 dateFebruary 12
2014 dateMarch 4
2015 dateFebruary 17
Related toAsh Wednesday
Mardi Gras

Shrove Tuesday (also known as Pancake Tuesday and Pancake Day) is the day preceding Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Shrove Tuesday is determined by Easter; its date changes annually.

The expression "Shrove Tuesday" comes from the word shrive, meaning "confess."[1] 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.[2] 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.[3][4]


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.[6][7][8] 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.[9]


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.[10] 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.[11] 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.

A pancake race in England

The most famous pancake race,[12] 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.[11]

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.[13] 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.[14]

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

Pancakes are traditional in Christian festivals in 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 reclaimed their title for the second year running in 2013.


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

Shrove Tuesday will occur on these dates in coming years:[15]

  • 2013 — 12 February
  • 2014 — 4 March
  • 2015 — 17 February
  • 2016 —
  • 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[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 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." 
  2. ^ Thurston, Herbert. "Shrovetide." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 6 Jan. 2013
  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. ^
  6. ^ "Shrove Tuesday - Pancake Day!". Irish Culture and Customs. Retrieved 17 November 2006. 
  7. ^ "Pancake Day (Shrove Tuesday) in the UK". British Embassy, Washington DC. Archived from the original on 23 February 2007. Retrieved 17 November 2006. 
  8. ^ "Easter in Australia". The Australian Government Culture and Recreation Portal. Retrieved 17 November 2006. 
  9. ^ "Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage". Retrieved 8 March 2011. 
  10. ^ Cooks Guide
  11. ^ a b "The origin of pancake racing", BBC
  12. ^ 2007 Pancake Race Video
  13. ^ "Liberal wins 60th Int'l Pancake race". United Press International (UPI). Retrieved 30 April 2011. 
  14. ^ (7 February 2008), "Pancake traditions in village", Longridge News, accessed 2010-06-16
  15. ^ Mardi Gras Dates

External links[edit]