Shrove Tuesday / Pancake Day
Shrove Tuesday is the day before Lent starts on Ash Wednesday. The name Shrove comes from the old middle English word 'Shriven' meaning to go to confession to say sorry for the wrong things you've done. Lent always starts on a Wednesday, so people went to confessions on the day before. This became known as Shriven Tuesday and then Shrove Tuesday.
The other name for this day, Pancake Day, comes from the old English custom of using up all the fattening ingredients in the house before Lent, so that people were ready to fast during Lent. The fattening ingredients that most people had in their houses in those days were eggs and milk. A very simple recipe to use up these ingredients was to combine them with some flour and make pancakes!
The custom of making pancakes still continues today, and in many U.K. towns and villages pancake races (where people race with a frying pan while tossing a pancake in it!) and pancake tossing competitions are held on Shrove Tuesday.
In other countries Shrove Tuesday is known as 'Mardi Gras'. This means 'Fat Tuesday' in French and also comes from the idea of using up food before Lent.
Many countries round the world have Mardi Gras celebrations and carnivals. Some of the most famous are in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, New Orleans in the U.S.A., Venice in Italy and Sydney in Australia.
In Rio, the streets are filled, over several days leading up to Shrove Tuesday, with large processions of people marching, singing and dancing. People taking part in the parade dress up in very bright exotic clothes. Sometimes the costumes are made on large wire structures so the people wearing them look very big, like butterflies or birds. There are big floats, with stands for singing and dancing on built into cars or lorries that take part in the parade, they are decorated as brightly as the people and help make the procession look amazing!
The most popular place to watch the parade is on the Marquês de Sapucaí Avenue, often called the 'Sambódromo' or 'Avenida do Samba' that mean Samba Avenue (the samba is a popular Brazilian dance). Apart from the main organised carnivals, there are small groups of people who go round the streets singing and dancing known as 'blocos' or 'bandas'. People from the local streets will often join the processions until a party starts!
The Rio carnivals started over 250 years ago when the Portuguese settlers bought form of carnival called 'entrudo' with them. It consisted of people throwing flour and water over each other! In 1856 the police banned entrudo carnivals because they were becoming violent and lots of people were getting hurt. This is when the carnival, like it is today, started. From the turn of the 20th century, people started to write fun marching songs to be sung during the carnival processions. When cars started becoming more widely available, they were made part of the carnival as away of displaying the performers. These grew into the large carnival floats that take part today.