Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 28, 2000
What is Shrove Tuesday?
By SR. LOUISE ZDUNICH, NDC
What is the meaning and origin of Shrove Tuesday (March 7, this year)?
The word "shrove" comes from the Middle English word "shriven" which means to confess and be absolved from sin. It was the custom to go to Confession on the day before Lent, that is Shrove Tuesday in preparation for Lent.
Another word for this day is "Mardi Gras" which is French for "fat Tuesday." This was a day for feasting on meat and fatty foods before the rigours of fasting and abstinence of Lent which included abstention from meat but also often from milk products and eggs.
That is why pancakes, using milk and eggs and fried in meat fat (before the days of margarine), are popular for Shrove Tuesday. Before refrigeration, feasting may have been a practical way to finish up the foods that were forbidden during Lent as they would spoil otherwise.
Today, some people celebrate on Shrove Tuesday although the observance of Lent has lost or never had much meaning for them. And for those for whom it does have meaning, rigorous fasting and abstinence are no longer obligatory, although they are permissible.
Mardi Gras was a day for carnival celebrations (from the Latin carnelevamen meaning removal of meat). Carnivals reflected pre-Christian revelry (including meat for food) associated with pagan spring rituals. It became sort of a wild last party before Lent when partying was forbidden, along with the fasting and abstinence required.
Today, although the celebrating may have little or no connection to the fasting and abstinence of Lent, carnivals are still held, most notably the Mardi Gras festival in New Orleans.
As for the "shriven" part of this day, we could all use some of that on Shrove Tuesday. Repenting of our sins, reflecting on the purpose of our life, how we can daily grow in our relationship with God and how we can live our lives in the presence of God and how we can become Christ to all those we encounter in our daily life and work is a must for all of us.