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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

07 March 2011

Shrove Tuesday

Q: What is Shroud Tuesday?

PancakesA: I believe that you are thinking of “Shrove Tuesday,” the last day before Ash Wednesday and Lent’s beginning. This day marks the end of the Carnival celebrations in Latin America and elsewhere. “Shrove” comes from “shrive,” an English word that’s almost lost in current usage. It involves confessing sins and receiving absolution. In many places, Shrove Tuesday actually is the third and final day of Shrovetide, days set aside for making pre-Lenten confession which also gave opportunity for a final round of festivities before the penitential season began. At this time, the things not to be eaten and drunk during the Lenten season were consumed or removed from the home.

Strictly imposed Lenten fasts include the removal of oils and other fats, sugar, and meat from the diet. People often try to use them up before Ash Wednesday. Large amounts of food might be cooked and eaten during these last few days. In parts of the world, this meant eating pancakes, since they contain oil, are cooked in it or other fat, and are often covered with the fat and sugar of butter and syrup. For many, this day brings a great “farewell dinner” for these sweet and fatty foods. In some places, it also means annual pancake races. Mardi Gras (literally Fat Tuesday) was named for this final pre-Lent feast.

Mardi GrasAmericans are probably familiar with the pre-Lenten partying in New Orleans. Although shameful excesses occur there and elsewhere, festivities such as Shrovetide, Mardi Gras, and Fat Tuesday began as ways of preparing hearts and households for the forty days of Lent. As such, even celebratory eating and drinking may be done in thanksgiving to our gracious God. Feasting before giving up some or all of these “luxuries” for a time helps remind us of our Savior leaving heaven and setting aside for a time His divine glory and might through His incarnation, life, and passion.

Reprinted from 2007.

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Walter Snyder is a Lutheran pastor, conference speaker, author of the book What Do Lutherans Believe, and writer of numerous published devotions, prayers, and sermons.

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