Shrove Tuesday: Where does this Party come from?

Shrove Tuesday… where does this party come from, with the disguises, the business, the pancakes? This Tuesday is Shrove Tuesday, D-Day to put on your best disguise and share a little gourmet pleasure. What are the origins of this festival?

Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday, relates to events of the Carnival celebration, starting on or after the Christian festivals of the Epiphany (Three Kings Day) and finishing on the day before Ash Wednesday identified as Shrove Tuesday. Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday”, contemplating the practice of the last night of eating rich, fatty foods before the ritual Lenten offerings and fasting of the Lenten season.

Related recommended practices are associated with Shrovetide celebrations before the fasting and ethical responsibilities related to Lent’s penitential period. In countries like the UK, Mardi Gras is also known as Shrove Tuesday, derived from the word shrive, indicating “to administer the sacrament of confession to; to absolve.”


Mardi Gras falls this year on Tuesday. This is not a fixed date because it always happens 47 days before Easter, which is also fluctuating. Why do we dress up and eat pancakes, bugs and other wonders?

The origins

In Roman times, we celebrated the end of winter and the arrival of spring and renewal during the “Calendars of March”. The opportunity to transgress the prohibitions by parading disguised to reverse roles and social order: men into women, the poor into the rich …
In the Middle Ages, this popular celebration was taken over by the Church, which inserted it into the liturgical calendar: Shrove Tuesday, the last of the Shrove Days, will precede Ash Wednesday, marking the start of Lent which will last until Easter and the resurrection of Christ.

Before depriving oneself, it was then customary to eat in abundance: meat and eggs, butter, sugar … Hence the tradition of small gourmet pleasures such as pancakes, bugs, waffles, doughnuts and other wonders that have come down to us.

The high point

The carnival period finds its climax on Shrove Tuesday. One of the most common etymological explanations for the word “carnival”, which comes from the low Latin “Carnevale” meaning “to remove the flesh”. It alludes precisely to this period when one consumes rich foods for the last time before let believers do not observe a more austere time of fasting and prayer.

However, the “carrus navalis” provides another etymology which relates the term to the “naval chariot” that the priest of the god Bacchus (Dionysus among the Greeks) drove during the Roman “Bacchanalia”.

Even today, floats are required (and masks for the occasion) for carnival, some of which are famous in France (Nice, Dunkirk …) and the world (Venice, Rio …). However, due to the pandemic, most of the festivities have been cancelled. It is turned into music videos that are broadcast online.

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