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The tradition of marking the start of Lent has been documented for centuries.Ælfric of Eynsham's "Ecclesiastical Institutes" from around 1000 AD states: "In the week immediately before Lent everyone shall go to his confessor and confess his deeds and the confessor shall so shrive him as he then may hear by his deeds what he is to do [in the way of penance]".In Denmark and Norway, the day is known as Fastelavn and is marked by eating fastelavnsboller.Fastelavn is the name for Carnival in Denmark which is either the Sunday or Monday before Ash Wednesday.The holiday is generally considered to be a time for children's fun and family games.

According to the Duden dictionary, the term derives from "Güdel", which means a fat stomach full of food Güdeldienstag.The association between pancakes and Shrove Tuesday may have arisen as it permits foods which are discouraged from being eaten during the Lenten season, such as butter, eggs, and fat to be used up.Christians use these ingredients during Shrovetide to make pancakes or other rich foods, such as fasnachts and pączki.Thus Shrove Tuesday gets its name from the custom for Christians to be "shriven" before the start of Lent.In Germany, the day is known as Fastnachtsdienstag, Faschingsdienstag, Karnevalsdienstag or Veilchendienstag (the last of which translates to violet [the flower] Tuesday), and celebrated with fancy dress and partial school holiday.