This year, Shrove Tuesday falls on February 28.
As I wrote in 2016, various traditions involving food and merriment take place on this day, because Lent begins 24 hours later:
Nearly all European countries mark Shrove Tuesday with a special food item or fat-laden feast, a final opportunity for enjoyment before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday.
These customs are centuries old and spread to other countries around the world with European exploration and settlement.
The Reformation could not put paid to old pre-Lenten customs which live on today. The British and many Commonwealth nations still call Shrove Tuesday Pancake Day. In Scandinavia and parts of Northern Europe, people enjoy semla, a sweet bun filled with frangipane and topped with whipped cream. People in Iceland celebrate Bursting Day by eating salted meat and peas.
Many countries celebrate Carnival or hold other ancient festivities on Shrove Tuesday.
In Britain, a number of towns in Britain hold pancake races, which date back to the 15th century …
Regarding pancake races, Shrove Tuesday is referred to as Pancake Day in much of the UK. Our pancakes are crêpes, although American pancakes are becoming more popular.
Christians observing Lent have it relatively easy today. Centuries ago, many foods — not just meat — were forbidden during this time of fasting and penitence. The BBC page on Lent states that fish, fats, eggs, and dairy products were also off the menu. Therefore:
So that no food was wasted, families would have a feast on the shriving Tuesday, and eat up all the foods that wouldn’t last the forty days of Lent without going off.
The need to eat up the fats gave rise to the French name Mardi Gras (‘fat Tuesday’). Pancakes became associated with Shrove Tuesday as they were a dish that could use up all the eggs, fats and milk in the house with just the addition of flour.
Beginners who would like to make crepes might find the following recipes of interest:
Top tips for foolproof crêpes (base recipe can also be done for savoury)
Fisheaters has a pancake recipe, too, along with recipes for Dutch Baby baked pancakes and Polish Pazcki, jam-filled donuts.
It is possible to enjoy Shrove Tuesday in a Christian way. It is unfortunate that it is uniquely associated with the revelry of Mardi Gras parades, which get so much publicity.
Why not take this time to have a fun, food-oriented celebration with family and friends?