There’s something kids love about having pancakes for dinner, and Pancake Tuesday is a great day for families to indulge their wishes.
Pancake Tuesday (also known as Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday) is the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.
It’s known as Pancake Tuesday because people use up rich foods such as eggs, milk and sugar before the fasting season of the 40 days of Lent. The Lenten fast encourages plain eating and simple foods and avoiding fancy, indulgent dishes. In many cultural traditions, this means abstaining from meat, dairy and eggs.
"Shrove" is the past tense of "shrive," which means to obtain absolution for one’s sins by sacramental confession and penance. Shrove Tuesday gets its name from the ancient custom of Christians being "shriven" before the beginning of Lent.
Catholics often call the day before Ash Wednesday "Fat Tuesday" or "Mardi Gras." Mardi Gras is French for "Fat Tuesday," the last day of eating rich, fatty foods before the fasting of Lent. The Mardi Gras festival in New Orleans, La., is famous for its masks and costumes, music and dancing, parades and feasting.
In Ireland the day is known as Máirt Inide (meaning Shrove Tuesday) and Pancake Tuesday.
For German-American populations, it’s known as Fastnacht Day.
In Portuguese-, Spanish- and Italian-speaking countries, it’s known as Carnival. This comes from the words carne levare (to take away meat). It’s often celebrated with street processions and fancy costumes. The most famous of these festivals is the Brazilian Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.
Many Polish-Americans celebrate it as Paczki Day, with parties, paczki and other Polish food.
Whatever you choose to call the day before Ash Wednesday, eating pancakes is a great way for families to feast and celebrate one last time before beginning the penitential season of Lent.