Home > Calendar > Holidays > Carnival/Shrove Tuesday

Carnival/Shrove Tuesday

Shrove Tuesday is the last day before the long fast for the Lent period in many Christian churches. The day is the day before Ash Wednesday and usually falls between February 3 and March 9. It has many names, including Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, the Tuesday of Carnival, and Pancake Day.
Colorful masks, elaborate costumes, parades and large crowds are all part of the Carnival festivities, also known as Mardi Gras, on Shrove Tuesday.
Colorful masks, elaborate costumes, parades and large crowds are all part of the Carnival festivities, also known as Mardi Gras, on Shrove Tuesday.
©iStockphoto.com/Michael Funk

What do people do?

Shrove Tuesday is observed in many ways worldwide. It is known as Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, in countries such as France and the United States. No matter what its name is, the day before Ash Wednesday has long been a time for eating and merry making. The world's longest Carnival celebration is in Brazil but many regions have popular events on the day. The Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans is typical of the masquerades and dancing in the streets that take place in many countries on this day as people prepare for the long Lenten fast.

Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) festivities are particularly colorful in French cities such as Cannes, Grasse, and Nice. Celebrations feature grand parades of flower covered floats with giant figures. People are dressed in costumes and confetti is thrown as an expression of merriment or joy. A grotesque effigy that represents evil is burned at the end of the day. 

It is also traditional in many parts of France to eat a large meal that includes crepes or waffles. Some people in the United Kingdom celebrate the day, known as Pancake Day, with games and races that involve tossing pancakes in the air. People in some parts of northern Sweden eat a meat stew on Shrove Tuesday, while those in the south eat “Shrove Tuesday buns” called semlor, which are filled with almond paste and topped with whipped cream.

This day is known as Carnival Tuesday in places such as Trinidad and Tobago where many people plan the event well ahead of time. Musical competitions, elaborate costumes and specific characters dedicated to Carnival are some of the major highlights of this annual event. Many people in Haiti see the day as the biggest celebration of the year. Music, food and cultural shows are all part of the day.

Shrove Tuesday in Lithuania is a folk celebration to rejoice end of winter. During this celebration attention is concentrated on chasing away winter with all its “evils”. It is also observed in other European countries such as the Czech Republic, Shrovetide processions are still part of folklore celebrations. Children in countries such as Estonia and Finland enjoy the day outdoors on Shrove Tuesday, mainly engaging in activities such as sledding. A typical Finnish meal on this day may include pea soup and blini, or rich pancakes, served with caviar and Smetana, a kind of sour milk.

Public life

Shrove Tuesday, or Carnival Tuesday, is a public holiday in places such as Haiti, Liechtenstein (although the date differs), Panama, Portugal, and Venezuela. It is a holiday that may be restricted to government and/or bank employees, as well as some businesses, in places such as Angola, Dominica, Ecuador, and Trinidad and Tobago.

It is an optional day off without pay in Brazil and it is not an official public holiday in French Guiana but it is a customary day off for workers. It is a public holiday in some parts of the United States, but not in the United Kingdom, Canada or Australia although there are many festivities related to this holiday on the day.

Background

The name Shrove Tuesday is derived from the Christian custom of confessing sins and being absolved just before Lent. Shrove Tuesday was traditionally a time to use up all the milk, butter and eggs left in the kitchen. These ingredients were often used to make pancakes, which is why the English call it Pancake Day.

 In early England, people were supposed to go to their confessors the week prior to Lent and confess their sins. Carnival Tuesday’s origins may be traced back to a time when restrictions regarding food and entertainment were made during the 40 days of Lent, which commemorates the Passion of Jesus Christ. It was common for people to host large festivities as the last possible opportunity before fasting.

During times in history when slavery was more prevalent, particularly in areas such as Haiti, slave masters continued to celebrate Carnival. The slaves could not participate in the same manner because they were not free. After gaining their independence, many of them took advantage of their freedom by celebrating Carnival for the first time. The celebrations featured beautiful clothing, festive music, and cultural shows

Symbols

Carnival Tuesday is often characterized by masks, music and colorful floats on parade for various festivities organized for the day. Trinkets are popular in some parts of the world, while King Cakes symbolize the event in places such as New Orleans. Pancake Tuesday is symbolized by pancakes, which are made from ingredients traditionally restricted during Lent, such as eggs and milk.

Note: Timeanddate.com has tried to get different perspectives on the day before Ash Wednesday but it does not cover all customs, events, traditions and historical facts relating to this holiday. This article serves to provide general information only.

Advertising

Other calendars

Related links