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Shrove Tuesday (known in some countries as Pancake Tuesday or Pancake day) is a day in February or March preceding Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent), which is celebrated in some countries by consuming pancakes.In others, especially those where it is called Mardi Gras or some translation thereof, this is a carnival day, and also the last day of "fat eating" or "gorging" before the fasting period of Lent. The expression "Shrove Tuesday" comes from the word shrive, meaning "absolve".
Pancakes are associated with the day preceding Lent because they were a way to use up rich foods such as eggs, milk, and sugar, before the fasting season of the 40 days of Lent.
The liturgical fasting emphasized eating plainer food and refraining from food that would give pleasure: in many cultures, this means no meat, dairy products, or eggs.
In Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and Ireland the day is also known as "Pancake Day" as it is a common custom to eat pancakes as a meal.
It is probably impossible to know when the tradition of marking the start of Lent began.
Ælfric of Eynsham's "Ecclesiastical Institutes" of about A. 1000 includes: "In the week immediately before Lent everyone shall go to his confessor and confess his deeds and the confessor shall so shrive him as he then may hear by his deeds what he is to do [in the way of penance]".
Before the Christian era, the Slavs believed that the change of seasons was a struggle between Jarilo, the god of vegetation, fertility and springtime, and the evil spirits of cold and darkness.
People believed that they had to help Jarilo fight against winter and bring in the spring.
The most important part of Maslenitsa week (the whole celebration of the arrival of spring lasted one week) was making and eating pancakes. The Slavs believed that by eating pancakes, they got the power, light and warmth of the sun.
The first pancake was usually put on a window for the spirits of the ancestors.