Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day, Mardi Gras or Martedì Grasso? Whichever name you know it by, the day before Ash Wednesday offers an excuse to indulge!
In British culture, eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday dates back to the 16th century. It began as the tradition of using up rich foods like eggs, milk and sugar to make pancakes before the 40 days of fasting. In France and Italy however, there are other colourful and tasty customs!
France - Mardi Gras
In France, pancakes (crepes or galletes) are not served on Shrove Tuesday but on La Chandeleur on the 2nd of February. La Chandeleur is also called ‘Fete de la Lumiere’ or crêpe day. It is tradition to hold a coin in your writing hand and a crêpe pan in the other, and flip the crêpe into the air. If you manage to catch it in the pan, your family will be prosperous for the rest of the year.
On Shrove Tuesday in France fatty foods are eaten and the day is known as Mardi Gras. During Mardi Gras, people disguise themselves putting on crazy masks. This tradition dates back to the middle ages, originally masks were a way for their wearers to escape social constraints and could mingle with people of all different classes and could be whomever they desired for a few days! Today the Carnival in Nice goes on for 10 days.
Italy - Martedi Grasso
In Italy, Shrove Tuesday, or Martedì Grasso, is just one day in the festivities that can last for weeks. This time is known as Carnevale, a culmination of authentic Italian food, parades and parties.
The word Carnevale is derived from the ancient Italian for carne (meat) and vale (farewell) – so Lent is preceded by meals of popular rich foods such as lasagne, sausages, cheeses and antipasti.
Traditionally the sweet foods include Chiacchere, which means “gossip” or “rumours”. These are strips of fried dough that are flavoured with lemon and sugar. Cannoli, which are tube-shaped fried pastries that are filled with cream, and Migliaccio which is a lemon and ricotta cake.
The most famous Carnevale celebrations are hosted in Venice. People from all over the world travel to Venice for Carnevale for the masquerade balls, parades and concerts over the course of two weeks.
In Verona, a parade of hundreds of floats makes its way across the city. In the Piedmontese town of Ivrea they have the Battle of the Oranges, where the locals throw oranges at each other – much like a huge snowball fight!
Other cities hold their own festivities, in Italy Carnevale is a much-loved reason for people to come together and celebrate as a community.