Shrove Tuesday, Carnival or Pancake Day?

Shrove Tuesday, Carnival or Pancake Day_traditions

When is Pancake Day/Shorve Tuesday?

Pancake Day, also known as Shrove Tuesday differs each year and is dependent on when Easter falls. However, it is always a day in February and March preceding Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. This year it falls on 28th February 2017.

Following Pancake Day many people give up luxurious treats, such as chocolate for 40 days during lent. For myself, I have never been very good at this part of the tradition; however, I still partake in the festivities of gorging on delicious pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. For me this day is firmly in my diary every year!

Where did Pancake Day come from?

Shrove Tuesday originated during the Middle Ages and during that period, food items like meats, fats, milk, eggs and fish were off limits during Lent. In an effort to keep these foods from being wasted, families would consume the items that would spoil during the next forty days.

The association of pancakes and Shrove Tuesday could have arisen due to the fact that the ingredients such as butter, eggs, and fat had to be used up, as they are most likely to go off during the 40 days of lent.

How do other nations celebrate?

Although in England we traditionally commemorate Shrove Tuesday by eating pancakes with sugar and lemon, there are a multitude of traditions in other nations.

Portugal/Spain/Italian speaking countries

In many Portuguese, Spanish or Italian speaking countries, it is known as Carnival. This derives from Medieval Latin carnelevamen, ‘the putting away of flesh’. It’s often celebrated with elaborate street parades and flamboyant fancy dress. The most famous of these events is Rio Carnival in Brazil. Check out my review of Rio Carnival here.

Rio Carnival Dancer
Samba School Dancer, The Sambadrome

Mardi Gras – New Orleans

Similarly in New Orleans, around 1.2 million people travel to the state of Louisiana to join in the celebrations that lead up to and over Shrove Tuesday. The name Mardi Gras translates roughly to Fat Tuesday. Hundreds of thousands of King Cakes are eaten in New Orleans during the Carnival season. The cake often has a small plastic baby inside and the person who gets the piece of cake with the baby, is King for the festive period. The cake is made using the official colours of Mardi Gras – created in 1872 by the Krewe of Rex – are purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power.

king cake, Mardi Gras
King Cake, Mardi Gras


In Spain, Pancake Day or Shrove Tuesday is named ‘día de la tortilla’ or in English ‘omelette day’. It is tradition to eat an omelette made with sausage or pork fat. Who doesn’t love a Spanish omelette? Why not try mixing the traditions, by having a savoury omelette and follow with the English traditional pancake with sugar and lemon?

omelette shrove tuesday
Spanish Omelette


Germany, Netherlands, Denmark and Norway

In Germany it is referred to as Fastnachtsdienstag, in the Netherlands, Vastenavond and in Denmark, Sweden and Norway it is referred to as Fastelavn. The festivities have a carnival feel to them, with children dressing up in costumes and gathering treats for the feast. The holiday is generally considered to be a time for children’s fun and family games.

Fastelavn Carnival


In Finland, the day is called laskiainen and is generally celebrated by eating green pea soup and a pastry called laskiaispulla (sweet bread filled with whipped cream and jam). One of the best things about celebrating Shrove Tuesday in Finland includes downhill sledging…sign me up for 2018!

Sledging, laskiainen, Finland

There are obviously many more traditions celebrated at this time of year around the world. If you have a tradition of your own, please comment below. I would love to hear how you commemorate Pancake Day.

Abigail x


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