Shrove Tuesday (widely known as Pancake Day) is a day in February or March, preceding Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent), which is celebrated in many countries by consuming pancakes. Shrove Tuesday, a moveable feast, is determined by Easter.
Being the last day before the penitential season of Lent, related popular practices, such as indulging in food that one sacrifices for the upcoming forty days, are associated with Shrove Tuesday celebrations, before commencing the fasting and religious obligations associated with 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.
This year Shrove Tuesday is on Tuesday 17th February 2015.
What are you giving up for Lent?
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Shrove Tuesday was once known as a "half-holiday" in Britain. It started at 11:00am with the ringing of a church bell. 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.
Traditions of Shrove Tuesday
Many towns throughout England used to hold traditional Shrove Tuesday football ('Mob Football') games dating back as far back as the 12th century. The practice mostly died out with the passing of the 1835 Highways Act which banned the playing of football on public highways, but a number of towns have managed to maintain the tradition to the present day.
One of the traditional toys to be played by children on Shrove Tuesday is the Whip & Top.
The tops are stout little wooden cones with a metal stud at the base on which they spin. The whip is a stick with a heavy cord attached. You wrap the cord around the top and then steadying the top with one finger you pull the whip quickly unwrapping the cord and sending the top dancing across the ground.
Other toys also popular on Shrove Tuesday were marbles, skipping and shuttlecock.