Shrove Tuesday...Off to IHOP?
The Catholic Faith has influenced so much of the popular culture around us. Sadly, many people are totally unaware of the link between cultural practices and its origin in the Faith. Today, Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras, makes no sense without relation to the succeeding day -- Ash Wednesday. Without that day in the Catholic liturgical calendar there would be no Mardi Gras, no Shrove Tuesday. What does this "Shrove" mean, anyway? It originates in Middle English from "to shrive". My online dictionary says the following under "shrive": 1: to administer the sacrament of reconciliation to; 2 : to free from guilt; intransitive senses, archaic : to confess one's sins especially to a priest. One must understand that Shrove Tuesday was the completion of a whole period in liturgical calendars of old called Shrovetide. This period before Lent was a time to gradually rid one's house and oneself of the things that would be sacrificed during Lent, beginning on Ash Wednesday. The sense of repentance was already in the air before Lent even began. Rex Olandi Rex Cledendi has a link to an article here for more on the topic.
And what about this trip to IHOP? Shrove Tuesday has also become associated with pancakes, believe it or not. Since this day was the last day to rid the house of fat, butter, and eggs (in older penitential practices) pancakes became the food to make to use up what remained. And so a tall stack (requisite knee slap!) of pancake festivals have sprung up around this day. Perhaps even your parish has an annual pancake feed on this day? For more on pancakes associated with today read articles here and here.