04 March 2011
Although not a real church festival, Shrove Tuesday is when English folks used up all their eggs and butter to ready for the Lenten fast. So, traditionally, everyone feasted on pancakes! Sometimes this day is called Fat Tuesday.
Shrove (past participle of the verb shrive, according to the venerable Wikipedia) means to receive absolution ("to scrape off"). Often parishioners confessed and received absolution in preparation for receiving communion on Easter Sunday. (By the way, Luther protested infrequent communion, offered to the laity only once or twice a year, at Christmas and Easter. Thank God for frequent communion, even if it's only twice a month!)
On the continent, pre-Lent fun lasted several days, and was called Carnival ("goodbye to meat").
Instead of just flipping pancakes, large city-wide parades and masquerade balls are held. Originating in Italy (traditional Carnivale foods, if you're interested: fritelle, crespelle, sfingi, castagnole, cenci, nodi, chiacchere, bugie, galani, fritole, berlingaccio, sanguinaccio and tortelli), the French borrowed the idea and developed Mardis Gras.
I have always thought of Fat Tuesday and Mardis Gras unfavorably, probably because of the debauchery modern New Orleans promotes. However, celebrations on the Continent seemed more like our Halloween--a time to dress up in costumes and masks and have fun. (Many of the children found after the bombing of Dresden on Shrove Tuesday, 1944, were in costume.)
*In Sweden, semla is traditionally only to be eaten on Fettisdagen (Fat Tuesday).
*Those crazy Danes: "One popular custom is the fastelavnsris, a switch that children use to flog their parents to wake them up on Fastelavns Sunday."
*Those crazy Hungarians: "They perform a burial ritual to symbolise the end of winter and spike doughnuts on weapons to symbolise the defeat of Ottomans"
(Wikipedia has an extensive article on Shrove Tuesday, if you're interested in how your ethnic ancestors celebrated)
Tomorrow I will post some favorite Shrove Tuesday pancake recipes.