A local church holds a free pancake supper every year to celebrate Shrove Tuesday and takes donations for their church. This from an article in my hometown newspaper The Urbana Daily Citizen. The observance of Shrove Tuesday with a pancake meal allegedly dates back thousands of years to a pagan ritual. Believing that they could speed up the advent of spring, pagans consumed hot, round, fried cakes symbolizing the sun, in hopes of accelerating the return of warmth and light. The seasons changed right on schedule and pancakes got the credit.
In the Christian Church, Shrove Tuesday or the southern tradition of Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) precedes Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the forty-day Lenten period of prayer, penance and fasting culminating in Easter.
Early Christians were to confess and be “shriven,” or absolved, on Shrove Tuesday. But it’s the fasting that appears to have prompted the pancake tradition. Milk and eggs were forbidden during Lent and consuming quantities of pancakes the night before cleared the pantry of these ingredients and temptation.
Lenten eve in the southern United States is observed as a carnival – from the Latin carnelevarium, to take away meat. As early as 1665 French explorers celebrated the tradition at a place they called Point du Mardi Gras on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana.
The carnival still bears the name of that place and Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, has evolved into a week of abundant feasting and frivolity, extravagantly-costumed, masked balls and nocturnal processions, all done to the accompaniment of the jazz music born in the American south.