Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Shrove Tuesday

Today is known by various names in various cultures. In Germany, and parts of Pennsylvania, it is called fastnacht, which actually means "Fast night". It is a German tradition to use up your flour, sugar and eggs by making fastnauchts, or donuts. My own grandmother used to make these on the day before Lent for her family.

An English name for this day is Shrove Tuesday. On Shrove Tuesday, the traditional practice grew up of making and eating pancakes in order to use up the sugar, eggs, milk, etc. that were forbidden during Lent. My dh and I have fond memories of eating pancakes in college on Shrove Tuesday. The generous people at the local Episcopal Church would host a pancake supper each year, which was free to struggling college students.

The word "Shrove" comes from the English word "shrive" which means to hear confessions. The tradition in the Church around 1000 A.D. was
"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 my hear by his deeds what he is to do [in the way of penance]". ~the Anglo-Saxon "Ecclesiastical Institutes" translated from Theodulphus by Abbot Aelfric
Lent, then, was a time for the cleaning of one's home and of one's soul. We still have the idea of "Spring Cleaning" as well as the common custom of Lenten Penance Services, which came from this time.

So, enjoy yourself this Shrove Tuesday, and look ahead to the Journey that is Lent.

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"Slavery ended in medieval Europe only because the church extended its sacraments to all slaves and then managed to impose a ban on the enslavement of Christians (and of Jews). Within the context of medieval Europe, that prohibition was effectively a rule of universal abolition. "— Rodney Stark

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