A celebration is a happy time when people get together in honour of something special.

Different religions or countries each have their own celebration or way of celebrating.

Shrove Tuesday is an ancient Christian festival.

Lent is a period of 40 days that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday.  Shrove Tuesday is the day before Lent begins. In some countries it is called Mardi Gras, which means ‘fat Tuesday’.  In Italy it is called Carnevale, the word for carnival. It is the last day for having good times before the serious time of Lent begins.

The word shrove is an old word meaning to confess, or tell a secret. Christians went to church to confess bad things they had done, so they were forgiven before Lent.

 In ancient times Christians ate very little during Lent, just very simple food. They could not have any parties or good times during lent, but went to church and were very serious.

Pancake ingredients ©Jupiter Images

Pancake ingredients ©Jupiter Images

In the days before fridges and freezers, people had to use up the food they were not allowed to eat during Lent rather than let it go bad. So the Monday before Lent was the last day they could cook and eat meat, and was known as Shrove or Collop Monday. Collop is an ancient word for a slice of bacon.  

The next day, the day before Lent,  they used up all the eggs, milk, butter and cream by making pancakes, cakes or pastries. Another name for Shrove Tuesday is Pancake Tuesday.

Thin pancakes are called crepes (say crapes), which is a French word. They are rolled or folded with a yummy filling inside.

Thin pancakes are called crepes (say crapes), which is a French word. They are rolled or folded with a yummy filling inside.

Because Lent was a long time when people could not feast or have parties, they had a last celebration on Shrove Tuesday. People had parties and balls, and there were parades and dancing and music. There were bands and dancing in the streets so everyone could join in.

Today the rules about Lent are not so strict, but people still celebrate on Shrove Tuesday. In some countries celebrations are only on the Tuesday, but in others it is a 3 or 4 day festival.

In the city of New Orleans in the USA, there is a famous parade called Mardi Gras, and people travel great distances to join in the fun. People wear very fancy masks, and the shops are full of beautiful masks for sale. There is a huge parade with lots of floats. People wearing masks and fancy costumes ride in the floats. They throw necklaces made of big beads into the crowd. It is good luck to catch one. 

New Orleans Mardi Gras necklaces being thrown to the crowds at the parade. ©Jupiter Images

New Orleans Mardi Gras necklaces being thrown to the crowds at the parade. ©Jupiter Images

Some cities in Germany also have a big carnival. The streets are jammed full of people in costumes and masks, all having a great time.

Dancers in a Mardi Gras street parade in Rio de Janeiro.    ©Jupiter Images

Dancers in a Mardi Gras street parade in Rio de Janeiro.    ©Jupiter Images

The city of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil is also famous for its Mardi Gras celebrations. The streets are full of dancing and music and noisy fun.

The Mardi Gras in Brazil lasts for several days.

 

Some people dressed in fancy costumes and wearing masks in Venice at Carnevale

Some people dressed in fancy costumes and wearing masks in Venice at Carnevale

 

The city of Venice in Italy calls its celebration Carnevale. It goes for about two weeks and ends on Shrove Tuesday.

It is a very famous festival and people come from all over the world to celebrate it in this beautiful city.

People wear beautiful masks and very fancy costumes.  Some masks cover the full face but some cover just the eyes.

Some people even wear their masks for two weeks.

Masks for sale. ©Jupiter Images

Masks for sale. ©Jupiter Images

Shops in Venice and in New Orleans sell lots of beautiful masks so people can join in the carnival fun.

These two cities are famous for the masks that are made there, so they are always in the shops, not just at carnival time.

 

So whatever it is called, the idea is to have a few days of good food and lots of fun before settling down to more than a month of being serious and not eating much!

Make pancakes:

http://uktv.co.uk/food/recipe/aid/512339/displayVideo/Hi

Make a Mardi Gras mask:

http://www.topinspired.com/top-10-diy-mardi-gras-carnival-face-masks/