Feasts, fasts and a Pancake Day warning

Having a ball: Revellers on parade during Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans.

Shrove Tuesday, ‘Pancake Day’, is a day to enjoy before the Christian fast of Lent. People eat pancakes and take part in parades. But are festivals like this still relevant?

What’s happening

There have been celebrations around the world to mark Shrove Tuesday. In countries including the UK, people traditionally eat pancakes to mark the day. Carnivals take place in Mediterranean cities. In New Orleans, people take to the streets in masks and costumes for the Mardi Gras parade.

Find out more

Shrove Tuesday falls the day before Lent, the Christian tradition marking the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert before he began to preach; it is the last chance to indulge before Easter. For Lent some people cut down on food or luxuries.

The pancakes we eat are a good way to use up dairy and eggs, which are traditionally forbidden during Lent.

Some say Shrove Tuesday has lost its original meaning. Western societies are less religious than in the past. If people are not going to fast in Lent, they do not earn the party the day before.

At Christmas, sceptics say excessive spending on presents and eating too much is against the holiday’s spirit; and Halloween, a festival of respect for the dead, has become a celebration of creepy things.

Some say…

These festivals are outdated. They mattered when people believed in their religious meaning and when eating certain food, or giving presents, was a treat. Now, they are just excuses to spoil ourselves. People get anxious at Christmas, eat too much on Shrove Tuesday and hardly bother with Lent. We should either mark these events properly or reject them.

Others think…

There is nothing wrong with mass celebrations. It is human nature to enjoy them, and now they are more important than ever. Our lives are busier and lonelier, so we need reasons to get together with the people we love. And old festivals can gain new meanings — for example, Australians have turned Mardi Gras into a celebration of LGBT culture.

You Decide

  1. Does the meaning of a festival matter?


  1. Design a festival of your own. What would it represent, and how would people mark it?

Some People Say...

“Celebrating festivals is a waste of time.”

What do you think?

Word Watch

Mardi Gras
This is the French name for Shrove Tuesday. It translates as ‘fat Tuesday’ and is used because people eat greasy food.
Allow yourself to enjoy something, even when you may have too much of it.
The way things have regularly been done in the past.
People who doubt whether something is being done correctly.
They were relevant in the past, but no longer are today.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender.

PDF Download

Please click on "Print view" at the top of the page to see a print friendly version of the article.