Mardi Gras 2020 (Fat Tuesday)

Learn the History Behind this Traditional Feast Day

February 18, 2020
When is Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras 2020 is Tuesday, February 25! Why do we celebrate Mardi Gras? Also called Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday, this holiday is associated with delicious foods and revelry. Learn more about this festive holiday!

I think that I may say that an American has not seen the United States until he has seen Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
–Mark Twain, American writer (1835–1910)

When Is Mardi Gras?

In 2020, Mardi Gras will be celebrated on Tuesday, February 25. 

Mardi Gras takes place on the day before Ash Wednesday—the beginning of the Christian observance of Lent, which last about six weeks until just before Easter.

Year Mardi Gras Date
2020 Tuesday, February 25
2021 Tuesday, February 16
2022 Tuesday, March 1
2023 Tuesday, February 21

What Is Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday” and is the final feasting day before the Christian season of Lent, which begins on the day after Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday.

Fat Tuesday is more properly called Shrove Tuesday, a name that comes from the practice of “shriving”—purifying oneself through confession—prior to Lent.

Why Is Shrove Tuesday Celebrated?

For many Christians, Shrove Tuesday is a time to receive penance and absolution. It is the last day to finish up the eggs, milk, and fat that are forbidden during the 40-day Lenten fast, which begins the next day (Ash Wednesday) and ends on Holy Thursday (three days before Easter Sunday).

Prepare a Feast for Shrove Tuesday

Because it was tradition to use up the eggs, milk, and fat in one’s pantry by this day, a big part of Shrove Tuesday is eating an abundance of delicious food—especially Shrove Tuesday Pancakes!

In England, where the day is also known as Pancake Tuesday, festivities include flapjack-related activities. The pancake race held by women in Olney, Buckinghamshire, dates back to 1445. Legend says that the idea started when a woman cooking pancakes lost track of the time. When she heard the church bells ring, she rushed out the door to attend the shriving service while still wearing her apron and holding a skillet containing a pancake. 


In 1950, Liberal, Kansas, having seen photos of the English pancake race, challenged Olney to a competition: The International Pancake Day Race has been held annually ever since. The two towns run their own race, after which the scores are compared and the international champion announced. Each contestant, wearing a head scarf and apron, holds a pancake in a skillet while running a 415-yard course. They must flip the pancake at the beginning and end of the race, without dropping it.

Other cultures also cook up rich treats and fried foods, which was a practice traditionally based on using up all the butter, flour, and fat in the house.

  • Among the Pennsylvania Dutch, the Tuesday is called Fastnacht (fast night), and everyone enjoys the traditional fastnachtkuchen, a rectangular doughnut with a slit in the middle.
  • In Polish communities, the Tuesday is called “Paczki Day,” after the puffy jelly-filled doughnuts traditionally enjoyed.
  • In Sweden, the Tuesday is called semmeldagen, semlans dag, or fettisdagen. They enjoy a sweet cream bun called semla. Happy Semlans Dag!
  • In Louisiana, the favorite treat is the beignet, a pillowy fried dough concoction. See photo below. Yum.

Want to celebrate Shrove Tuesday at home? Try some of our favorite homemade pancake recipes!

Beignets covered in powdered sugar

How Else Is Mardi Gras Celebrated?

In countries with large Roman Catholic populations, Mardi Gras is also a day of revelry with festivals, parades, masked balls, and lavish dinners. In the United States, New Orleans is the most known for its Mardi Gras celebrations with marching bands, decorated floats, colorful costumes and masks, lots of beads, and King Cakes.

Mardi gras parade

Learn More

In the spirit of New Orleans, try cooking up some great Cajun food for Mardi Gras, such as this soul-warming Jambalaya.

Discover more about the history and traditions of this holiday on the City of New Orleans’ Mardi Gras Website.


Reader Comments

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Mardi Gras

I've been twice to Mardi Gras New Orleans, enjoyed the FOOD, people, the Crew parades you can have fun and do not need to get drunk it is a mind set to enjoy.

40 days of lent?

Easter falls on April 21st 2019. If 40 days are in Lent. And if forty days are subtracted from 4/21/19, I get 3/12/19. If March 5th is used, then I get 47 days of Lent.

40 Days of Lent?

The Editors's picture

In 2019, Lent officially begins on Ash Wednesday (March 6) and ends on Holy Thursday (April 18), which comes out to 44 days. However, because fasting is not observed on Sundays but is observed on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, this brings the total days of fasting to 40.

40 days of Lent

Different Christian denominations calculate Lent differently. Roman Catholics exclude Sundays. Christ rose on Sunday, therefore it is a day of celebration and you are not required to fast. Many Catholics give up something for Lent such as a favorite food and are allowed to have that on Sunday during Lent. If however, one has given up something such as boasting, it hardly makes sense to continue that practice on Sunday!


Do not count the Sundays.

40 days of Lent

Sundays are always a feast day as we acknowledge God's presence at Eucharist. So, when looking at a calender to count 40 days of lent that start on ash wednesday do not include Sundays.


New Orleans is best know for it but it originated in Mobile, AL

You forgot to mention that

You forgot to mention that Mardi Gras celebration started in Mobile Alabama not New Orleans

Yes. Although Mardi Gras

The Editors's picture

Yes. Although Mardi Gras began as far back as the Middle Ages in Europe, it appears that the first "city/town" (rather than individual) celebration in what is now the United States took place in 1703 in what is now Mobile, Alabama. Back then, it was a French settlement called Fort Louis de la Mobile, which had been established by French-Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville and his brother, Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d'Iberville. Bienville later established New Orleans in 1718.

Mardi Gras is also celebrated in many other areas, including Biloxi, Mississsipi, whose first official parade took place in 1908.

maybe so, but New Orleans

maybe so, but New Orleans made it better!

I'm from Nola

Just lookin