Exploring Shrove Tuesday around the globe

Pancakes with berries on a rectangular plate

Shrove Tuesday, most commonly known as Pancake Day, is a beloved tradition celebrated around the world. It holds cultural significance for many communities, symbolizing a time of reflection and indulgence before fasting and abstinence.

In the UK, it marks the beginning of Lent, a period of 47 days leading up to Easter Sunday, during which Christians traditionally abstain from certain luxuries or vices as a form of penance and spiritual discipline. Originating in medieval England, the term "Shrove" comes from the word "shrive," meaning to confess one's sins and receive absolution. 

Why pancakes?

One of the most popular customs associated with Shrove Tuesday is to enjoy stacks of pancakes topped with an assortment of sweet or savoury toppings, from traditional lemon and sugar to caviar and creamy mushrooms. The tradition of eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday is said to have originated as a way to use up rich ingredients like eggs, milk, and butter before the fasting period of Lent begins.

While Shrove Tuesday is a quintessentially British celebration, variations of it can be found in different parts of the world. 



In France, the day is known as Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday, and is marked by elaborate parades, masquerade balls, and feasting on rich, indulgent foods. 

The most popular are crepes, waffles, king cake and beignets (a variation of doughnuts). 

Les beignets
Galette des Rois


The history of the king cake, or "Galette des Rois," dates back centuries, with roots in Roman and medieval traditions. Filled with rich almond paste and encased in flaky pastry, the Galette des Rois often features a hidden surprise; a small figurine known as the 'fève'. Tradition dictates that whoever discovers the 'fève' in their slice is crowned king or queen for the day, a custom that adds an element of excitement and camaraderie to the festivities.



In Lithuania, the same day is known as Užgavėnės and is celebrated with folk rituals and festivities to bid farewell to winter and welcome the arrival of spring. 

People dress up in elaborate costumes and masks, engage in playful games and dances, and feast on pancakes and a variety of traditional Lithuanian dishes.



In Brazil, it is celebrated as part of Carnival, a vibrant festival known for its colourful parades, samba music, and street parties. Families indulge in traditional Brazilian cuisine, including feijoada (a hearty stew of beans and pork) and coxinhas (deep-fried chicken croquettes).


In Russia, Pancake Day is known as Maslenitsa and is a week-long celebration marking the end of winter and the beginning of spring. It is celebrated with pancakes topped with sour cream, caviar or jam, symbolizing the sun and the coming warmth. Maslenitsa is a time for Russians to embrace the changing seasons, bid farewell to the cold winter months, and welcome the promise of renewal and abundance with open arms.


In Finland, Shrove Tuesday is known as "Laskiainen," and it's celebrated with a blend of traditional customs and outdoor activities. One of the most popular traditions is sledding down snowy hills, marking farewell to winter and welcoming spring. The traditional meal of the day is 'hernekeitto' - a traditional Finnish pea soup served with ham, and delicious 'laskiaispulla' - sweet buns filled with whipped cream and almond paste.


In Germany, Pancake Day, known as 'Faschingsdienstag' or 'Fastnachtsdienstag', is celebrated as part of the carnival season leading up to Lent. While the emphasis is often on festive parades, costumes, and street parties, pancakes still play a role in the culinary traditions of the day.

Across the globe, Shrove Tuesday is a day of joyous celebration and indulgence, as people come together to enjoy delicious food, partake in cultural traditions, and prepare for the warmer season ahead.

Whether it's flipping pancakes in the UK, dancing in the streets of Brazil, or wearing masks in Lithuania or Russia, the spirit of Shrove Tuesday is alive and thriving in diverse communities around the world.


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