One version of the Carnival celebration spans the unusual distance between the British Isles and the countries that once formed Prussia, called Shrove Tuesday. Shrove comes from the old English term 'shrive', which meant to confess your sins. During Shrovetide (Carnival), the faithful were required to confess all their sins from the previous year in order to free themselves from burden for the coming celebration.
But, instead of masquing or parading, the observers of Shrove Tuesday eat. It is tradition for celebrants to eat as many as 12 times that day. And what do they eat?
Pancakes. Lots and lots of pancakes. Symbols of the sun, the practical reason for this particular delicacy is simple. Nearly all the main ingredients in pancakes-eggs, milk, butter, and syrups were on the Lent no-no lists. Rather than waste the food, they ate it all with great gluttony, as if storing up for the coming lean season. They even have their own version of a Shrove Tuesday parade, the pancake race. Women entered in this race carry frying pans with a pancake. They must flip the pancake twice, once at the beginning, and once at the end of the race (extra flips are at the discretion of the racer). This Dionysian fixation with pancakes mirrors the excesses of drink and revelry now associated with modern celebrations. So, eat up!
Next up, the French bring Mardi Gras to America via the mighty Mississippi!