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origin of mardi gras

Or was that Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day?

Is it the origin of Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day that you need to know... you know they are all the same day, right?

You didn't? 

Well they all fall on the same day, and in 2018 it is...

Tuesday February 13, 2018

The origins of Mardi Gras, are linked to the many of the Christian denominations as a time for celebrating the end of Epiphany.  

The celebrations mean that the Christian faith would consume many rich, fatty foods before fasting for Lent.  This is why in many countries, such as Brazil, France, Netherlands, and Italy have carnivals on or leading up to this day.

In common practice today, I've found that many observe or join in the activities for Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday etc, but not many actually know why...


what is lent?

Lent is approximately a 6 week window in the Christian calendar.  It starts on Ash Wednesday and ends with the celebration of Easter.

 The purpose of Lent is the prepare the believer through prayer, repenting sins, and self-denial, or fasting.  It gives the believer the opportunity for self-examination on their life and trends. 

In fact, you may well have heard the phrase...

What are you giving up for Lent?

I've known people try to use this time to break bad habits they may have developed, such as...

  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
  • Shopping
  • Chocolate
  • Partying
  • Fizzy drinks
  • Sweets
  • Sex
  • Fast food

In essence it's anything they have done in excess and usually a habit they wish to break.

On a personal level I do not think this is a bad idea at all.  So whatever faith you follow, what would you give up for a period of 6 weeks?



origin of mardi gras - shrove tuesday

Pancakes for Shrove TuesdayPancakes for Shrove Tuesday

With the literal translation of Mardi Gras from French into English - Fat Tuesday, has started to take on other names.

In the UK, it is often referred to as Shrove Tuesday.  Pancakes are commonly eaten on Shrove Tuesday in the UK.  These can resemble anything from a crêpe to drop scone.  You can have them with sweet or savory items, but a traditional topping is with lemon and granulated sugar.

Why pancakes?

Historically, pancakes were made on Shrove Tuesday so that the last of the fat or lard was used up before Lent.

This isn't typically celebrated with a festival in the UK, but often you will get charity or children's groups having pancake races.  This will involve a "dash" race, where the contestant needs the following...


Olney Pancake RaceOlney Pancake Race
  • Pair of comfortable running shoes
  • A frying pan
  • A ready made pancake (or drop scone)
  • For authenticity an apron and headscarf!


It is said that this "tradition" started in a little village named Olney in Buckinghamshire in 1445. 

The cause? 

She heard the church bells calling her to service and ran to the church with her frying pan, tossing it so it did not burn!

You can find out more about Olney and their pancake race by visiting their Facebook page.

You will find that should you enter the Olney race, some of the required items are provided for you, including the apron and headscarf.



2018 update: The intention was to visit Olney this year, but due to an injury my son sustained, we were not able to go.  We would like to congratulate the 2018 winner, Katie Godof.


So no matter what you are doing for Mardi Gras this year, I hope your festivities are enjoyed by all the family.  As for the origin of Mardi Gras, I hope you understand a little more about the traditions behind it.

If you are in a pancake race... the best of luck! 



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