Won’t you join us for a shrove? That’s right, today is Shrove Tuesday. It’s one of those days that we Episcopalians celebrate much to the bewilderment of some of our more fundamentalist brothers and sisters. What exactly is Shrove Tuesday? What do we do? Why do we celebrate?
Before we get into that, what exactly is a shrove? Shrove actually isn’t a noun. It’s actually the past tense of the word “shrive,” which means to grant absolution. However, the word shrove seems to have taken on the definition of “pancake” since the typical Shrove Tuesday celebration involves eating pancakes.
Now that we’ve got the definitions out of the way, what is Shrove Tuesday? “Ecclesiastical Institutes” from around 1000 AD states: “In the week immediately before Lent everyone shall go to his confessor and confess his deeds and the confessor shall so shrive him as he then may hear by his deeds what he is to do [in the way of penance]”.
Christians started celebrating Shrove Tuesday in the 16th Century. In the days preceding Lent, a season of fasting, was observed. Fatty foods, such as milk and butter, were consumed prior to the fasting. The goal was to use up these ingredients, as they wouldn’t be able to be consumed during Lent. So, on Shrove Tuesday, we celebrate with pancakes, rich in butter and milk. We also eat meat, bacon and sausage, and indulge ourselves one last time before Lent.
In modern times, many don’t take fasting literally. However, the Lenten Season is important in the Episcopal Church, as is Shrove Tuesday. Fellowship is important in the Episcopal Church. Shrove Tuesday is an important time to join with your parishioners, have a meal, and enjoy each other’s company.
In many Episcopal churches, the Shrove Tuesday celebration is hosted by a men’s group or youth group. In my church, the men’s fellowship hosts the feast. True to custom, we’re having pancakes, bacon, and sausage. Being in blueberry country, we’re also having homemade blueberry syrup. We’ll have several pots of hot, black coffee, and almost anything else you can think of. So, won’t you join us for a shrove? We’d love to have you!