Shrove Tuesday comes originally from the word shrive (meaning “absolve”).
As the last day before the Lent, Shrove Tuesday was a day of self-examination where Christians would consider what sins they needed to repent of and what changes to their life or spiritual growth they would focus on during the fast.
While Shrove Tuesday was a day for the purification of the soul, it also had a practical significance too, from which would emerge our modern day tradition of pancakes. In preparation for Lent centuries ago, those observing the fast would use Shrove Tuesday to also purify and remove from their house any of the items that they were foregoing for the 40 days. Traditionally this included meat, fish, eggs, fats, milk and sugar – so Shrove Tuesday became the final blowout before Lent began!
These ingredients combine easily to make pancake batter, hence why in the UK Shrove Tuesday is now synonymous with the making, tossing and racing of pancakes. The gorging on rich foods on Shrove Tuesday also gives us the alternative name of Mardi Gras (meaning ‘Fat Tuesday’ in Fench), which in turn has grown into a whole carnival feast in Louisiana, USA.