Today is a special day in Christendom with several names and traditions, which, out of curiosity, I once had cause to look into. Following is a reprint, slightly edited, of what I posted on Raindrops many years ago.
I was brought up Pentecostal and am, therefore, not steeped in liturgical traditions such as Lent … In my reading of fiction based on Old England, I recalled coming across shriven. The context seemed to have something to do with confession and forgiveness. I deduced that shrove must be the past tense of to shrive.
Well, oddly enough, Wikipedia confirmed my suspicions. (It is odd for me to be correct.) Shrove is the past tense of “to shrive,” and it does have to do with people confessing and being absolved of their sins. In the case of Shrove Tuesday, it was in preparation for Lent.
For some reason the appellation, Shrove Tuesday, sticks in my mind, but to Cuppa, Pancake Tuesday, is the more common name. To my French SIL, Mardi Gras is the term. I never realized before discussing it with the kids last night how appropriate Mardi Gras is, for it literally means Fat Tuesday in French.
Why Fat Tuesday, you ask? Because, according to Wikipedia, on the last day before Lent, people, in an attempt not to have food go bad during the restrictive Lenten period, would eat up all sorts of perishable food that could not be consumed during the Lenten season.
Why Pancake Tuesday, you ask? Because, according to Wikipedia, two such perishable food items were milk and eggs, two prime ingredients of pancakes. In fact, somewhere I think I read (but I can’t find it again) that recipes for pancakes appeared in as early as the fifteenth century.
Aside: Reading about pancakes reminded me of my mother because according to Wikipedia: “In the Canadian province of Newfoundland, household objects are baked into the pancakes and served to family members. Rings, thimbles, thread, coins, and other objects all have meanings associated with them. The lucky one to find coins in their pancake will be rich …”
Perhaps that is where my mother’s birthday cake tradition originated, for she would wrap coins in tin foil and insert them into birthday cakes. I have never known anyone else in the world to do this, but I now surmise that someone in our line of forebears adapted the tradition from inserting coins and other items into the Shrove Tuesday pancakes.
I have to tell you that Shrove Tuesday is my favourite name, but I am an old fashioned kinda guy in some ways — even if I do write “kinda” from time to time. Whatever you call the day, if you call it anything at all, enjoy your pancakes if that’s what you do. We’ll get together with the kids and grandlets. It’s a great way to begin and end the Lenten season.