Shrove Tuesday, one of the most appetising days of the year, is soon upon us. The event will take place on March 5 this year and will see people around the globe dig into the heavenly batter. Pancake Day, as Shrove Tuesday is also known as, is celebrated across the UK and the Commonwealth as well as other English-speaking nations. But what is the meaning behind it and why do we make pancakes?
What is the meaning of Shrove Tuesday?
Shrove Tuesday has been a part of Christian tradition for centuries.
The event is followed by Ash Wednesday which marks the start of Lent (the Christian fast) and beginning of the 40-day countdown to Easter.
But Shrove Tuesday has a deeper meaning than just digging into the delicious batter.
The pancakes themselves are part of an ancient custom with deeply religious roots.
Shrove Tuesday is a day of celebration as well as penitence, because it’s the last day before Lent – a time of abstinence and giving up luxuries.
Shrove Tuesday gets its name from the ritual of shriving that Christians used to undergo in the past.
In shriving, a person confesses their sins and receives absolution for them.
When a person receives absolution for their sins, they are forgiven for them and released from the guilt and pain that they have caused them.
In the Catholic or Orthodox context, the absolution is pronounced by a priest and is a very old tradition.
The tradition of marking the start of length has been documented for centuries and about 1000 years ago a monk wrote in the Anglo-Saxon Ecclesiastical Institutes: “In the week immediately before Lent everyone shall go to his confessor and confess his deeds and the confessor shall so shrive him.”
The day is observed mainly in English-speaking countries, especially in Ireland, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA.
Why do we make pancakes on Shrove Tuesday?
Pancakes were originally created as a way to use up rich foods, such as eggs and sugar before Christians started their fast.
Eggs and sugar were often types of food people would have extras off and wanted to use up before the 40-day fast began.
When Lent started, Christians would mark the period with prayers and fasting, abstaining from a whole range of foods, including meat, eggs, fish, fats and milk.
The specific custom of British Christians eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday dates to the 16th century.
However, nowadays people tend to use Shrove Tuesday more as an excuse to indulge in stacks of the delicious batter without feeling guilty.
Shrove Tuesday is also known as Pancake Tuesday, Pancake Day, Fat Tuesday and Mardi Gras (French for Fat Tuesday).