Take your pick, but regardless of title, today is the last day for many who participate in Lent to eat all things sweet.
In the UK, there is a much-loved tradition of making and eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, which falls between February 2 and March 9 each year, depending on the date for Easter. In 2009, Shrove Tuesday falls on 24 February. Shrove Tuesday ('shrove' stems from old English word 'shrive', meaning 'confess all sins') is the day before Lent.
According to Christian beliefs, Lent commemorates Jesus' 40 days in the wilderness, and observant Christians mark this period by fasting. So Shrove Tuesday was cleverly invented to use up the ingredients that were given up for Lent - milk, butter and, particularly, eggs - which may not be eaten again until Easter.In other parts of the world, Shrove Tuesday is marked by quite different celebrations. In New Orleans, for example, it's celebrated with the Mardi Gras, and in Rio de Janeiro with the equally raucous carnival.
Other old customs include the annual pancake grease at London's Westminster school (schoolboys fighting for pancakes in return for a monetary reward); Mischief Night (breaking into people's houses in disguise and demanding pancakes); Lent Crocking or Lensharding (throwing old crockery at people's doors and asking for pancakes to be tossed back), and shroving - a visiting custom in which children sang or recited poetry in exchange for food or money.
Granted, I would rather be in Rio de Janeiro or New Orleans to celebrate this last day of sugary indulgence, but as it be, I am stuck in chilly NYC getting ready for an evening of clarinet and saxophone lessons to be taught. Nevertheless, I helped myself to huge stack of yummy pancakes for breakfast and will find ways of snacking all day on all the devlishly delicious forbidden sweets of the next 40 days and nights!