Pancake Day: Why Shrove Tuesday is a thing

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It's Shrove Tuesday but what's with the pancakes, why the word "shrove" and what is Ash Wednesday?

It all relates to the Christian festival of Lent.

"Shrove" is the past tense of "shrive" which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as "presenting oneself to a priest for confession, penance, and absolution".

It's basically the day in which Christians traditionally confess their sins in church ahead of Lent.

What's Lent?

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It's a Christian festival and the roots come from people replicating the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus Christ over the 40-day journey he made through the desert.

A lot of people use Lent as a way of testing their willpower - often giving up things like chocolate or other sweet treats before Easter.

Those of you who are quick with numbers might have figured out that there are 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.

But many Christians believe there's no obligation to fast on Sundays, which means it is actually only 40 days once you remove them.

Does that mean you can continue to eat chocolate on Sundays? Well, that's up to you entirely.

Why do we eat pancakes?

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Turns out there's a pretty good reason.

Whether you enjoy yours with lemon and sugar, American-style with bacon and maple syrup or French with a bit of chocolate spread and banana - the basis of the recipe is the same.

Eggs, flour and milk (if you're not sure how to make them, there's a recipe here).

Those three key ingredients were once very common things to give up for Lent, so it made sense to use them all up in one handy dish the day before Lent started.

These days it's probably the toppings that we're more likely to scrap from our diet.

Why's it called Ash Wednesday?

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image captionPalm Sunday is the last Sunday of Lent

Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent and comes straight after Shrove Tuesday.

The ashes that give the day its name are created from burnt palm leaf crosses from the previous year's Palm Sunday.

They are used to mark the sign of the cross on the heads of Christians during mass.

Where does Easter Sunday fit in?

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Easter Sunday this year (2021) falls on Sunday 4 April.

Easter is not a set date but always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the spring equinox.

The equinox marks the first day of spring and is when the Earth's equator is directly inline with the centre of the sun.

So now you're all up-to-date, go make yourself a few pancakes as a treat.

(An earlier version of this story was published in 2018, we've updated it with the correct date of Easter this year)

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