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Shrove Tuesday

November 19, 2017

Why is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday called “Shrove Tuesday” or “Mardi Gras?” The Shrove Tuesday name goes back at least 1,000 years when the church required that in the week before Lent everyone must go and confess their sins and receive forgiveness. This pronouncement of absolution by the priest was known as “shriving.” In one of the early Rules, it was stated, “In the week immediately before Lent everyone shall go to his confessor and confess his deeds and the confessor shall so shrive him.” The Tuesday before Ash Wednesday was the last day for this ritual of shriving, so became known as Shrove Tuesday.

Since Lent was also a time of abstinence, Shrove Tuesday was also the last day to indulge yourself and use up the foods that weren’t allowed, foods such as meat and fish, fats, eggs, and milky foods. This would include pancakes. So that no food was wasted, families would have a feast on the shriving Tuesday and eat up all the foods that wouldn’t last the forty days of Lent without spoiling. Eating up the fats gave rise to the name, Fat Tuesday, which in French, is Mardi Gras.

Pancake races are thought to have begun in 1445. The story is that a woman lost track of the time on Shrove Tuesday and was busy cooking pancakes in her kitchen. Suddenly she heard the church bell ringing the call to confession. So she raced out of her house and ran all the way to church, still holding her frying pan and wearing her apron. One of the most famous pancake races today is held in Olney, Buckinghamshire, England over a 415-yard course. Rules are strict. Contestants must toss their pancake at both the start and finish as well as wear an apron and scarf. The race is followed by a church service. Since 1950, Olney has competed with Liberal, Kansas, which holds an identical race. After the 2000 race, Liberal was leading with 26 wins to Olney’s 24.

Loren Bullock
February 10, 2005

Source: bbc web site

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