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Carnival/Shrove Tuesday in the United Kingdom

Many Christian churches in the United Kingdom observe Shrove Tuesday as the last day before the fast for the Lent period. It is also known as Pancake Tuesday or Pancake Day.

Is Carnival/Shrove Tuesday a Public Holiday?

Carnival/Shrove Tuesday is not a public holiday. Businesses have normal opening hours.

Pancakes, with sugar and lemon
Shrove Tuesday is also known as Pancake Tuesday. There are different types pancakes in the United Kingdom.
Shrove Tuesday is also known as Pancake Tuesday. There are different types pancakes in the United Kingdom.
©iStockphoto.com/Paul Cowan

What Do People Do?

Shrove Tuesday in the United Kingdom is commonly known as Pancake Tuesday. It is a time for people to eat pancakes or participate in pancake races. Pancakes in the United Kingdom have some variations. For example Welsh-cakes, or light cakes are eaten in Wales while many pancakes in Gloucester are made with suet, a hard, white or pink fat made from beef or mutton.

People who take part in the pancake races carry thin pancakes in frying pans and must race to the finish, flipping pancakes as they go. The winner is the first to the finish line with a pancake that is not burnt. Some people may take time off work to participate in the pancake races.

The Olney Pancake Race is held at Olney in Buckinghamshire on Shrove Tuesday. It is one of the best known pancake races in the United Kingdom. The course for the Olney Pancake Race is about 415 yards long (about 379 meters). Competitors must wear traditional costumes that include a skirt, apron and head covering to run the race. Official Olney and Liberal prizes are then presented at a Shriving service in the parish church after the race is finished.

Public Life

Shrove Tuesday is not a bank holiday in the United Kingdom so public life is not affected. However some local areas, such as the town of Olney, may temporarily close sections of streets or roads for pancake races.

Background and Symbols

According to Christian tradition, Lent commemorates the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness so observant Christians marked this event by fasting. Many people used ingredients, such as eggs and milk, to prepare pancakes on Shrove Tuesday prior to the fasting period. Pancake races have been held in England for more than 500 years. Some sources suggest that they may have started in 1445.

One old English custom associated with Pancake Day was the annual pancake grease at London’s Westminster where schoolboys would fight for pancakes to gain monetary awards. Another tradition was Mischief Night, where some people would go into houses in disguise and ask for pancakes. A general article about Shrove Tuesday worldwide covers more information about its background and symbols.

About Carnival/Shrove Tuesday in other countries

Read more about Carnival/Shrove Tuesday.

Carnival/Shrove Tuesday Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday TypeArea
2010TueFeb 16Carnival/Shrove TuesdayChristian 
2011TueMar 8Carnival/Shrove TuesdayChristian 
2012TueFeb 21Carnival/Shrove TuesdayChristian 
2013TueFeb 12Carnival/Shrove TuesdayChristian 
2014TueMar 4Carnival/Shrove TuesdayChristian 
2015TueFeb 17Carnival/Shrove TuesdayChristian 
2016TueFeb 9Carnival/Shrove TuesdayChristian 
2017TueFeb 28Carnival/Shrove TuesdayChristian 
2018TueFeb 13Carnival/Shrove TuesdayChristian 
2019TueMar 5Carnival/Shrove TuesdayChristian 
2020TueFeb 25Carnival/Shrove TuesdayChristian 

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