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What is Fat Tuesday? Is it the same as Mardi Gras? And when is it?

article info from Penn-Live/Patriot News

By Julia Hatmaker |

What is Fat Tuesday?

Fat Tuesday is another name for Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. It begins the season of Lent for Christians. Fat Tuesday falls on February 25, 2020.

What happens on Fat Tuesday?Traditionally, Lent is a period of fasting. So on Fat Tuesday one is supposed to bulk up on fatty, rich foods that you do not eat during the Lenten time. That’s one of the reasons pancakes and fastnachts (which contain fat, sugar and eggs) are often eaten on the holiday. The day also marks the end of shrovetide or Carnival (or Carnaval), which is the week leading up to Lent.Fat Tuesday is about readying oneself for Lent, not just by feasting before a fast. For Christians, it is a time to reflect, confess and ready one's spirit for the forty days of repentance that is Lent.“To shrive” is to hear confessions. Thus, Shrove Tuesday is a day of feasting as well as penance.

Does it have any other names?It is also called Mardi Gras, which means Fat Tuesday in French. It is referred to as Fastnacht Day in Germany - meaning “the eve of the fast” - and Fetter Dienstag. In England, it is also called Pancake Tuesday because of the traditional pancake meal that occurs on that day.

Why Fastnacht Day?Some of us like to name our days after the food we consume. Shrove Tuesday is the day where many people eat a Pennsylvania Dutch doughnut, called fastnacht. Fastnachts have been a Pennsylvania Dutch tradition for generations and were originally designed as a way to use up all the lard in the house before the beginning of Lent. Fastnachts come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They can be round, square or diamond-shaped. Sometimes they have holes in them, other times they do not. Some fastnacht recipes even call for mashed potatoes or potato flour to be used in their creation. Are fastnachts the only treat eaten on Fat Tuesday?Nope! Many cultures have their own dough-y delicacy to consume. In New Orleans, the Mardi Gras King Cake reigns supreme. It’s made up of a cinnamon-flavored dough and topped with green, yellow and purple icing. Inside you’ll find a variety of sweets ranging from cream cheese to strawberries. There’s also a tiny baby figurine to be found inside. If you find the baby, then you’re supposed to host the next Mardi Gras celebration. Or you have to buy the next King Cake. Or you simply are viewed as super lucky. It really depends.Other favorite Fat Tuesday treats include paczki in Poland, malasadas in Portugal and beignets in New Orleans.Then, of course, there are pancakes.But lets be honest, if you’re in Pennsylvania it’s all about the fastnacht. If you live around the Harrisburg-area, here’s a list of bakeries, churches and more that are selling these delectable creations. This story has been adapted from an article published in 2016.

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