What is Shrove Tuesday (also called “Fat” Tuesday) and Mardi Gras? The Family Sourcebook for Lent and Easter offers some interesting background on Shrove Tuesday’s history and practices:
Carnival is from the Latin Carnevale or “farewell to meat”, and it is a time of joyful feasting and fun. The practice of celebrating carnival probably began in ancient times when the Sunday a week before the beginning of Lent was called Dominica Carnevala, or “farewell to meat Sunday” — referring to the Lenten fast from meat and animal products. The official day of “farewell” is Mardi Gras, French for “Fat Tuesday”. It is also known as Shrove Tuesday, which may refer to the diet being deprived or “shriven” of meat; or possibly that after the customary confession in preparation for Lent, one is “shriven” of sin. The famous celebration of Mardi Gras in New Orleans has become largely a secular festival, its religious meaning having been virtually obliterated in the revelries.
The web site also offers excellent suggestions for family activities for Shrove Tuesday.