Shrove Tuesday around the world!


Shrove Tuesday around the world!

Shrove Tuesday Around the World!

It’s Shrove Tuesday! And that can only mean one thing… Pancake Day!

Traditionally, pancakes were consumed as a way of using up rich, decadent foods like eggs, milk and sugar before Lent officially begins.

But actually, devouring large quantities of these delicious fried snacks isn’t the only way people enjoy the event.

At Freewheel Holidays we offer cycling holidays to countries all over Europe! With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the ways Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day, is celebrated around the world:

United Kingdom

On home soil, you’ll no-doubt be aware of the classic tradition of consuming pancakes on Shrove Tuesday – we don’t call it Pancake Day for nothing!

But you might not be aware of some of the more obscure traditions that have taken place and still take place today throughout the UK!

For example, you might know of “Pancake Races” which take place in many UK towns to this day with competitors running to the finish line whilst simultaneously attempting to flip a pancake in a frying pan! The winner is the first “flipper” who crosses the finish line first with their pancake still intact! Or, at the very least, in decent condition!

However, long before the pancake race came about, 17th Century townspeople participated in what was known as “Mob Football” games in which players would organise a massive footy match along a popular street.

Sadly, but perhaps with good reason, this tradition slowly died out as road safety laws came into effect towards the 19th Century.

Maybe they should have tried flipping pancakes AND cycling at the same time… Now THAT’S a challenge!


In the land of Beer and Bratwurst, they refer to shrove Tuesday as ‘Fastnachtsdienstag’, along with similar names depending on the region.

Here, it is celebrated by children dressing up in fancy dress for the day. You’ll also find many areas putting on a special carnival filled with visual delights to mark the beginning of Lent.

Understandably, as a tradition before the fasting of Lent it is perfectly acceptable to indulge in fatty, delectable foods, and not just pancakes. These often include platters of some of the most mouth-watering delicacies the country has to offer in mountainous servings.

Maybe here in the UK we could learn a thing or two!


Arguably the most famous of all Shrove Tuesday celebrations across the globe is the Carnival of Brazil.

Known for its mass participation, music and extravagance, specific areas of the country (primarily Rio De Janeiro) host some of the world’s biggest carnival parades backed by masses of costumed dancers and intricately designed floats. Many such celebrations date from Brazil’s colonial past and over in Portugal, they celebrate in a similarly flamboyant fashion with their own Carnival of Madeira.

Rather than pancakes, sugary doughnut-like desserts called ‘Malasada’ are eaten. They actually originated in Madeira but have since gone on to become popular in many other countries including Hawaii and have been adapted in numerous ways with various sweet fillings.

In keeping with traditional practices, it is common for Portuguese people to refrain from eating meat or meat products during Lent, which is where the phrase ‘Carnival’ actually comes from. In its original form, its literal translation is “to raise (remove) meat.”


While the majority of countries which practice the Shrove event enjoy their celebrations on a Tuesday, the Polish actually choose to begin theirs the Thursday before Ash Wednesday.

Affectionately titled “Fat Thursday” this is the day when Polish people purchase their favourite pastries from their local bakeries (or make their own desserts if they’re good enough!) and enjoy a day of unashamed gorging!

Pączki - a yeast-based, filled, Polish doughnut - is the most popular sweet of the day and is eaten in all corners of the country.

Denmark & Norway

While they may be separated, these two countries’ Shrove celebrations are strikingly similar.

The celebration, known as ‘Fastelavn’, developed from the Roman Catholic tradition but the religious side of things faded  as Denmark evolved from a Catholic to a Protestant nation. But, each year, the country still hosts one of the most impressive ‘Fastelavn’ carnivals around!

The national food of celebration is undoubtedly ‘fastelavnsboller’ but differs from country to country:

In Norway, it doesn’t look too different to a British scone filled with jam and cream.

But, in Denmark, you’ll find a version made with puff pastry instead!

This is barely scratching the surface, but now you know that this day isn’t just all about pancakes! But don’t let that stop you!

Happy Shrove Tuesday from everyone at Freewheel Holidays!