The day before Ash Wednesday is known by a lot of names, most famously Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday (which is what Mardi Gras means in French). Traditionally, it has also been called Shrove Tuesday--the day on which Christians were "shriven" or forgiven of their sins when they went to Confession.
Even as our thoughts turn to the penitential season of Lent, however, we enjoy one last day of feasting. That's why Shrove Tuesday is also often called Pancake Day, the day on which medieval Christians, whose Lenten fast was more strict than ours, used up their eggs, butter, and milk--all of which were forbidden during Lent--by making pancakes.
In England, the tradition continues even today, and Laura Porter, the About.com Guide to London Travel, has a wonderful series of articles on Pancake Day in London. She includes a delicious pancake recipe, and you can find tips on cooking pancakes (and more recipes) on the About.com GuideSite to Desserts and Baking.
So tonight, why not feed your kids breakfast for supper? As they prepare for the Ash Wednesday fast and abstinence, you can feed them pancakes and bacon and tell them the story of how Christians in earlier times went all 40 days of Lent without any meat, eggs, and dairy products. Then, as they pick their jaws up off the floor, you can hand out some Pancake Day Puzzles to help them learn a little bit more about this last day of feasting before Lent.
And if pancakes aren't your style, check out this extensive list of Fat Tuesday Recipes for other Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday foods and traditions!
(Photo © Barb Rolek, Licensed to About.com, Inc.)