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.