From Academic Kids
In the Christian calendar, Shrove Tuesday is the English name for the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, which in turn marks the beginning of Lent. In many solidly Roman Catholic countries in Europe and the Americas, this is the last day of Carnival. In some historically Francophone places it is Mardi Gras, French for "Fat Tuesday"; the most famous celebration under this name is New Orleans Mardi Gras.
The origin of the name Shrove lies in the archaic English verb "to shrive" which means to absolve people of their sins. It was common in the Middle Ages for "shriveners" (priests) to hear people's confessions at this time, to prepare them for Lent.
In Ireland and Australia Shrove Tuesday is known as "Pancake Tuesday", while in Britain it is popularly known as "Pancake Day". In both regions the traditional pancake is a very thin one (like a French crêpe) which is served immediately sprinkled with caster sugar (superfine sugar in the United States) and a dash of fresh lemon juice.
In the Canadian province of Newfoundland, household objects are baked into the pancakes and served to family members. Rings, thimbles, thread, coins, and other objects all have meanings associated with them. The lucky one to find coins in their pancake will be rich, the finder of the ring will be the first married, and the finder of the thimble will be a seamstress or tailor. Children have great fun with the tradition, and often eat more than their fill of pancakes in search of a desired object.
Pancakes are eaten to use up milk and eggs, which are not eaten during Lent, and would otherwise spoil during this period.
In Sweden Shrove Tuesday is known, just as in France, as "Fat Tuesday", or Fettisdagen in Swedish. The day is marked by eating traditional Swedish pastry, called Semla. Supposedly, the pastry is only to be eaten on this day but it is seasonally available from New Year until the beginning of Lent.
Shrove Tuesday in England
Many towns throughout England held traditional Shrove Tuesday football ('mob football') games dating as far back as the 12th century. The practice mostly died out with the passing of the 1835 Highways Act, which banned the playing of football on public highways, but a number of towns have managed to maintain the tradition to the present day including Alnwick in Northumberland, Ashbourne in Derbyshire (called the Royal Shrovetide Football Match), Atherstone in Warwickshire, and Sedgefield in County Durham.
Shrove Tuesday (and Mardi Gras) falls / fell on the following dates in the following years:
- 2004 - February 24
- 2005 - February 8
- 2006 - February 28
- 2007 - February 20
- 2008 - February 5
- 2009 - February 24
- 2010 - February 16
- 2011 - March 8
- 2012 - February 21
- 2013 - February 12
- 2014 - March 4
- Wilson's Almanac: (http://www.wilsonsalmanac.com/pancake.html) Sources and quotes concerning Shrove Tuesday customs