Madi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day… However you know it, Mardi Gras is an annual event that people the world over mark every year, but what is it and why do we celebrate it?

When/ What is it?

Historically, Mardi Gras is a Christian holiday that has routes in Pagan spring rites. Like most Pagan festivals, it was inducted into the Roman festivals of Saturnalia and Lupercalia which then transitioned once again after Christianity began to grow in popularity.

As Christianity became more ingrained in people’s lives and cultures, religious leaders chose to incorporate existing holidays rather than abolish them, thus Mardi Gras became the introduction of Lent and was a day when you could indulge before fasting until Easter.

As such, Mardi Gras is celebrated on the Tuesday before Lent, otherwise known as Shrove Tuesday. It makes the start of Lent and is the day that we all get to make and eat pancakes to our heart’s content. In many places around the world, Mardi Gras is more than just a day, it’s a week long celebration! Why the name? Well, Mardi is French for Tuesday and Gras, the French word for fat. It literally means Fat Tuesday, which, considering it was a day to use up as much food as you could before Lent, does make sense.

In the UK, the phrase Mardi Gras is more associated with carnivals or festivals, with Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day being the most commonly used names for the final day before Lent begins. Elsewhere in the world, Mardi Gras kicks off a week of festivities leading into the Lent period of fasting. For instance, in New Orleans, Mardi Gras covers the entire period from the last night of Christmas to Ash Wednesday, while in Belgium, Mardi Gras lasts for three days and involves performances including wearing costumes in the national colours and throwing oranges at people.

So, there you have it, Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday/ Shrove Tuesday / Pancake Day is a day to indulge, enjoy yourself and generally use up all those tasty, fatty foods before Lent and Easter. So whatever you like to call it, fire up those hobs and let the pancake batter flow!




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