Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Mel, Butterfly, My Mother and ...

Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, and Mardi Gras


It was when I was reading Mel's, It Was Just Tuesday a Second Ago, this morning that I was reminded to look up shrove as in Shrove Tuesday. Like Mel, I was brought up Pentecostal and am, therefore, not steeped in liturgical traditions such as Lent. In fact, I had forgotten that yesterday was Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Tuesday, until my daughter, Butterfly, invited us over for a pancake supper.


It was on the way over to her house that I cogitated about the meaning of shrove. 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. I resolved to look it up on the net but forgot until I read Mel's blog.


Well, oddly enough, Wikipedia confirmed my suspicions. (It is odd for me to be correct.) Shrove is the past tense of 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 name. 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 Lent.


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.


Where does my mother (see title), fit into this? Tangentially really, but according to Wikipedia again: "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.


There is also some interesting information about Shrove Tuesday and some of the traditions on the religions part of BBC site.


13 comments:

Gina said...

I don't know if it was because I was raised Catholic, but I had never heard it referred to as Pancake Tuesday.

All I know is that today is Ash Wednesday, and we would have already given our confessions to the priest and told him what we were "giving up" for Lent.

Perhaps I'll do a modified version of that this years.

Sue said...

We used to call it Pancake Day unofficially, or Shrove Tuesday in church. We did have pancakes - just English style, ie a bit like crepes, with lemon and sugar - as dessert yesterday evening. Rather an afterthought though. I was raised Anglican and our son who's still at home is back at an Anglican church here, but we never did much for Lent. And to confuse things still further, Lent for the Greek Orthodox - which is about 95% of Cyprus - doesn't start till next week, as their Easter is a week later this year.

madcapmum said...

I think baking coins into plumcake was an old British tradition. I remember reading that when I was a kid, and thinking that it sounded like a VERY good idea!

Bonita said...

I've never heard of Shrove Tuesday Pancakes....and it is always a pleasure to hear of family traditions.

Turtle Guy said...

Shrove Tuesday celebrations have been a part of my family history for as long as I can remember. I, in fact, visited the church yesterday evening with my Dad for a good big helping of 'cakes and sausages!

I have to admit that over the years I've become less and less tied to the "church" as an entity, however the community is strong and I'm very much all about community.

Doris said...

My mother would put dimes wrapped in waxed paper in our birthday cakes. I even mentioned it in her eulogy. Maybe she learned it from your Mum!

Heather said...

That makes THREE moms that used to do it, because MINE DID TOO! And since we never celebrated Shrove Tuesday in our long history of Anabaptism, I'm not sure where she got it from.

Simply Coll said...

Oh my goodness. Your post brought back some happy memories. My mom always tucked nickles in our birthday cakes. I had all but forgotten this until I read your post. :-)

Mel said...

I'd never heard of Pancake Tuesday nor Shrove Tuesday until today. I love learning new stuff! (And thanks for the link.)

kathy said...

Interesting! Thanks Anvilcloud!

Granny said...

Pancake Tuesday isn't as common here but the girls' Tuesday afterschool program at the church (United Methodist) served them pancakes and sausage for dinner.

We've hung onto some of our Church of England vestiges.

I read on another blog that Carnival means literally to give up meat. Carne - makes sense once I think about it.

Dale said...

Me too, AC. Mum used to bake nickles in our birthday cakes. And we always had pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. We called it "Pancake Day."

megz_mum said...

probably missed the boat for a relevant comment as you posted this a while ago, however (don't you love that - make an excuse and then forge right ahead!) just wanted to say we have lots of Shrove Tuesday/Pancake day activities. The tuckshop at school had pancakes for this occasion.
As for the money in cakes - my English mother in law always does this for Christmas pudding. Also a tradition for the twelfth day of Christmas (Jan 6) and whoever finds the coin is King for the day.