This year Shrove Tuesday falls on February 5th. It marks the culmination of Carnival and is the last day before Lent. It has also become known as Pancake Day and many people now look forward to the tasty treat it heralds (I certainly do!).
Why pancakes? Well, for the 40 days following Shrove Tuesday (not including Sundays) it's traditional in Christian practice to eat only the plainest foods in remembrance of the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert. Rich ingredients like the eggs, milk and sugar used in making pancakes would be used up before the time of fasting. Other traditional foods for this time of year are donuts and sweet fried dumplings called cenci. In the French tradition Shrove Tuesday is known as Mardi Gras ('Fat Tuesday'). The French have an earlier pancake day on the 2nd of February, called Chandeleur, which celebrates the returning of the light. It's thought that the crêpes (French-style pancakes, which are larger and thinner than those of the British tradition) made on this day symbolise the sun, which they resemble in shape and colour.
The word 'Lent' also suggests celebration of the Spring: it's an old English word meaning 'lengthen' (as Spring approaches the days begin to get lengthen noticeably). 'Shrove', however is the past tense of the verb 'shrive', and means to have obtained absolution for your sins through confessing and paying penance. In some Christian traditions worshipers are expected to take confession just before the onset of Lent.
Here's a link to a French-style pancake recipe for you to celebrate with: basic pancakes with sugar and lemon.Yum, yum.