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23 Feb 2024 13:44
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  •   Home > News > International

    When is 'pancake day'? Here's what it has to do with Easter, Lent and Ash Wednesday

    The Shrove Tuesday tradition is based on Christians using up all their fats before fasting.


    Have you been hearing a lot about pancakes today?

    That's because it's not just any old Tuesday, it's Shrove Tuesday — but it's also known as 'pancake day' or the French translation for 'fat Tuesday' — which is Mardi Gras.

    The tradition of cooking pancakes on this particular day is rooted in Christian religion, but to many it's a non-denominational cultural custom

    If you're looking to find out the Easter public holidays for your state and territory, tap the link below. 

    When are the Easter public holidays?

    Otherwise, read on for an explanation of the pancake tradition. 

    What is Shrove Tuesday?

    It's the day before followers of the Christian faith observe Lent, which is the 40-day period before Easter. 

    The specific traditions of Lent vary across the Christian denominations, but it's generally a time of fasting, abstinence and repentance. 

    Followers may give up something relatively trivial such as coffee or dessert, while other people might observe more stringent abstinence, but that depends on the person and their faith. 

    Shrove Tuesday is something that happens as part of Easter and the date of Easter changes from year to year because it's dependant on the Moon. 

    So the date for Shrove Tuesday changes too. 

    And some Christian denominations mark the Easter period on different dates to other denominations.

    Why do people have pancakes on Shrove Tuesday?

    Because some Christians begin observing the restrictions of Lent the following day, known as Ash Wednesday.

    As the day before Lent, Shrove Tuesday is seen as the last day of merriment and excess

    Followers saw it as a day to use up all their fats and eggs, with pancakes being a good way to use them up — so the pancake-eating is more of a cultural tradition.

    The French translation for Mardi Gras is "fat Tuesday", which hearkens back to the buttery breakfast treats (although, there are no rules saying pancakes are strictly a breakfast food). 

    Why is it called 'Shrove Tuesday'?

    The word 'shrove' is the past tense for the word 'shrive'. 

    Shrive is an old word that means to confess, with the Macquarie Dictionary listing the one of several definitions as:

    "to confess to a priest, for the purpose of obtaining absolution"

    When is Ash Wednesday?

    Many Christian denominations will observe Ash Wednesday tomorrow

    What is Ash Wednesday?

    For most Christian denominations, Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent

    Again, depending on the denomination, the specific traditions can vary. 

    But, in general, it sees the burning of palm leaves used in Easter celebrations the year before. 

    The resulting ashes are used by church leaders to draw a cross on the foreheads of followers in religious ceremonies on that day. 

    When does Lent start?

    For many Christian denominations, Lent begins tomorrow.

    And Lent goes right through until Easter.

    But some Christian denominations mark the Easter period on different dates, and therefore their Lent dates are different. 

    When is Easter?

    There's no fixed date for Easter — it changes year to year

    It's a multi-day religious event where Christians retell the story of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. 

    The Christian Bible tells the story of Jesus being persecuted by the Roman rulers at the time and sentenced to death by crucifixion — which coincided with the Jewish Passover celebration at the time. 

    The Easter period goes for about a month.

    For most Christian denominations, the main holidays for 2024 are as follows:

    • Palm Sunday: March 24
    • Good Friday: March 29
    • Holy Saturday: March 30
    • Easter Sunday: April 1

    According to the Christian Bible, Jesus was welcomed into the city of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, was crucified on Good Friday and rose from the dead on Easter Sunday. 

    What are the Easter public holidays?

    Australia's public holidays are mostly denominational, but some are based on Christian religions. 

    Generally, we get a long weekend over Easter, but the public holiday dates vary slightly depending on which state or territory you're in. 

    • March 29: Good Friday
    • March 30: Easter Saturday
    • March 31: Easter Sunday
    • Monday, April 1: Easter Monday
    • Friday March 29: Good Friday
    • Monday April 1: Easter Monday

    There's also Easter Tuesday on April 2, but the Fair Work Ombudsman website says that's generally just for the state's public service workers. 

    • Friday March 29: Good Friday
    • Sunday March 31: Easter Sunday
    • Monday April 1: Easter Monday

    Source: Fair Work Ombudsman

    © 2024 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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