Shrove Tuesday - What is it?

The etymology of the word "shrove" reveals the day's original purpose. Its lineage includes shrive and the Old English scrifan (to assign, decree, impose penance). It is related to the word scribe, or write. The purpose of Shrove Tuesday was to receive absolution from sins before the fasting period of Lent. It was a day to prepare hearts for the Easter season. The holiday, observed mainly by Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians, and Methodists, dates back to at least 1000 AD and is also known as "Fat Tuesday" or, in French, "Mardi Gras."

The spiritual and somewhat ascetic purpose of Shrove Tuesday has changed over the centuries. In preparation for the simpler foods encouraged during the Lenten fast, it became custom to use up richer foods, such as eggs, dairy, sugar, and meat, the day before. Pancakes, which use eggs, milk, and sugar, became a staple; Shrove Tuesday is known as "Pancake Day" in many parts of the world. In Portugal, malasadas (fried, hole-less doughnuts) are a common way to use up lard and sugar. Practical pantry-cleaning grew into great celebrations. Although the parades and parties last during the entire Carnival (from the Latin for "remove meat") season, Fat Tuesday is technically only the Tuesday before Lent.

Shrove Tuesday is always the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. None of these holidays are required, or even mentioned, in the Bible. Easter, the oldest Christian holiday, took bits of the pagan goddess of spring and the Jewish Passover to celebrate Christ's resurrection. Good Friday counts back to recognize His crucifixion. Fourth-century Catholics developed Lent to remind themselves of the virtues of penance and discipline in honor of the forty days of Christ's temptation. Shrove Tuesday was meant as a way to prepare hearts for Lent, grew into a chance to prepare kitchens and pantries for Lent, and has become a huge celebration. Christians are not required to celebrate any of these holidays. At the same time, there is nothing wrong with eating pancakes, either.

Shrove Tuesday occurs 47 days before Easter Sunday, which falls on the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox in the northern hemisphere. Shrove Tuesday can fall anywhere from February 3 to March 9.

Shrove Tuesday Calendar

2024 — February 13

2025 — March 4
2026 — February 17

2027 — February 9

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