Shrove Tuesday, which is also known as Shrovetide Tuesday, Pancake Tuesday and Pancake Day, is the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of the 40-day penitential season of Lent.
"Shrove Tuesday" comes from the word “shrive,” meaning "confess." The term “Mardi Gras” is French for “Fat Tuesday,” which refers to the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season begins.
Back in the day, pancakes were eaten because they were a way to use up rich foods such as eggs, milk, and sugar. Lenten fasting emphasizes eating plainer food and refraining from the good stuff.
Factoid: Christians in Newfoundland mix small tokens into the pancake batter. Children take delight in discovering the tokens, which are supposed to predict the future. For example, the person who finds a coin will be wealthy; someone who finds a nail will become (or marry) a carpenter. (Note: Presbyterians will not be mixing anything other than food elements into our pancake batter!)