Shrove Tuesday – so many questions!

When you become “known” as someone who eats mindfully, and who geeks out on what we eat and why, there are certain times when you get a lot of questions.

One such time, my friends, is today, this Shrove Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.

– Why is eating pancakes a thing?

– Why the big Mardi Gras party?

– What does “shrove” mean?

And for me specifically – is Shrove Tuesday a Feast Day?

So – here we go:

Why Pancakes? Well, back in the day, the norm for Lent was no “animal” products. So, starting Ash Wednesday, you didn’t eat meat or dairy or fat in your cooking. Thus, by the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday…you needed to use up all your meat and dairy and fat or else it would need to be tossed, and back in the day we didn’t waste food like that.

What’s an easy cheap way to use up all your eggs and milk and butter? Pancakes! Snag that cheap flour, and pancake it up!  I found this fun 18th century “pancake pie” Shrove Tuesday recipe on, if you want to be a little fancier than just a sky-high stack of pancakes tonight.

(“Animal” is in quotations, because fish were fair game, and later poultry and their eggs as well…)

What’s up with Mardi Gras? I’m not going to write a whole paper on the history of Mardi Gras, here, which is way out of my wheelhouse. Laissez le bon temps rouler, New Orleans!

But, at a basic level – this Tuesday before Ash Wednesday is the last day in the liturtgical season of Epiphany, before we begin Lent. The flavor of the two seasons are starkly contrasted – Epiphany is about light and joy and the realization of who Christ is among us. Lent is about quiet and prayer and deliberate abstinence, in preparation for Easter. I can get how a big blow out “last party” became I thing, can’t you? I know I had some King Cake for breakfast this morning!

What does Shrove mean?  From wikipedia: The word shrove is a form of the English word shrive, which means to obtain absolution for one’s sins by way of Confession and doing penance. Thus Shrove Tuesday was named after the custom of Christians to be “shriven” before the start of Lent.”

In that same English Heritage article I linked to above, I read that some churches had a tradition of bringing their animal fatty food to the church to be blessed on Shrove Tuesday. The congregation would confess their sins, receive absolution, and then would go home with the now blessed food to prepare for their not-Lent-yet Shrove Tuesday dinner.

For me personally, I am very very very aware that this new Lenten season begins tomorrow. I am thinking of my upcoming fasting, my hopes for spiritual growth. I am not officially confessing my sins so much…but I will first thing in my Ash Wednesday service tomorrow morning.

Lastly – is Shrove Tuesday a Feast or a Fierce Day in Eating Liturgically Land?

Well. It is a Fierce Day. Anticipatory though it may be, it is not bumped up to Feast status…with a big ol’ HOWEVER.

However…I am having bacon with my pancakes tonight, and the aforementioned King Cake breakfast, and I went ahead and added a dollop of sour cream to my taco salad for lunch. As opportunities arise, I am eating them…and saying good bye to them.

My son and I will color in an Alleluia coloring page tonight…and then we will fold it up and “bury” it (in an envelope, in our garage). We will not say Alleluia again until Easter.

I think of these last snippets of Feast Foods in the same vein. I’ll see them again at Easter.

May your Mardi Gras, Pancake Night, Shrove Tuesday celebrations be meaningful and joyous…and may we all have a blessed, uplifting Lenten season ahead.

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