Today is Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day! Why do we eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday?
Traditionally, Christians would mark the period of Lent with prayers and fasting, abstaining from a whole range of foods, including meat, eggs, fish, fats and milk. The word ‘shrove’ comes from the old practice of being ‘shriven’ – meaning to confess one’s sins. The shriving bell would be rung on Shrove Tuesday to call people to church to confess.
Before Lent could begin in earnest, all edible temptations needed to be removed. This took place over a period of days known as ‘Shrovetide’. Meat such as bacon would be eaten up on ‘Collop Monday’ (a collop is a thin slice of meat). And on Shrove Tuesday eggs, butter and stocks of fat would be used up. One of the easiest ways to dispose of these items was to turn them into pancakes or fritters, a custom which continues today!
The Monday and Tuesday before Lent were periods of great festivity before the coming days of abstinence. Children would go ‘Shroving’ or ‘Lent-crocking’ on Shrove Tuesday (or the night before), knocking on their neighbours’ doors and singing.
So, today is about preparing for Lent that starts tomorrow. This is the annual occasion when we can focus on our faith, the way we live it and the way we might change our lives in the light of the faith.
Prepare for Lent with our reflections, here
With thanks to the English Heritage blog for information on Shrove Tuesday traditions