The Customs of Easter

Shrovetide - Shrove Tuesday

Shrovetide is the last 3 to 4 days before the beginning of Lent. Traditionally it is a time for one last fling and for eating all the foods in the house that could not be eaten during Lent before the time of fasting begins. Ever since medieval times people attend carnivals, give lavish feasts, and throw wild parties.

In old days each day of Shrovetide had a name. There was Egg Saturday, Quinquagesima Sunday, Collop Monday, and Shrove Tuesday. Of these only Shrove Tuesday is still widely celebrated. Shrove Tuesday is known by different names in different countries. In England it is called Pancake Day, Guttit Tuesday, or Goodish Day. In Scotland Shrove Tuesday is known as Bannock Tuesday or Fasten’s E’en (Eve of the Fast). While in France and in the United States, it is called Mardi Gras. Another name given to Shrove Tuesday in the United States is Fat Tuesday. Other names for Shrove Tuesday are as follows: Tuesday of Carnival (various countries), Mairt Inide (Ireland – means Shrovetide Tuesday), Sprengidagur (Iceland – Bursting Day), Uzgavenes (Lithuania), and Paczki Day (Poland and Polish areas of the United States).

Pancakes are a traditional food eaten on Shrove Tuesday. The tradition may have come from the Roman Fornacalia, or Feast of Ovens, when small wheaten cakes were eaten. Pancakes were a choice food for pre-Lenten eating because housewives could use up all the fats and butter in the house before the time of fasting began. Early Lenten restrictions also included eggs, meat, and milk products. Due to these restrictions, other rich foods also became traditional fare. In later years the restrictions on food were loosened, but pancakes have remained the most popular food eaten on Shrove Tuesday.

Shrovetide is known for its carnivals, its games, its parties. Whether it is Mardi Gras in New Orleans, United States, or Carnival in other countries, people all over the world gather for fun, food, and a very good time. Great processions with many beautiful, elaborate floats parade down the streets amazing young and old alike. The most famous and biggest carnival is the Carnival of Rio de Janeiro. In addition to the parades many like to dress up and attend masquerade parties or town pageants.

For many years sports of one kind or another were a part of the Shrovetide festivities. Sports may still be traditional in many parts of the world. Back as far as the twelfth century mob football games were played on public streets in England. Other sports, some now banned, that people participated in are as follows: cockfighting, “thrashing the hen”, hurling matches, wrestling, horse racing, and two games called tip-cat and prison bars. One sport that has become a tradition in the United Kingdom and in the towns of Liberal and Olney, Kansas, United States is the pancake race. The participants, usually women, carry an iron skillet tossing pancakes as they race to the finish line. If men wish to participate they traditionally have to dress as a housewife wearing, at least, an apron and a bandanna.

Another tradition of Shrovetide is mischief making and playing pranks. Some early pranks included removing and hiding gates and doorknockers and running off with brooms, rakes, pails, and anything else portable that wasn’t locked up.

Shrovetide, a world-wide party that usually takes place the three or four days prior to Lent, is a festive time where people have a good time eating and partying before the fasting and introspection of Lent. Games, parades, and rich foods play a big part of this world-wide party.