20 February 2007

Shrive, Shrove, Shriven

(Insert your favorite pluperfect-subjunctive joke here.)

Check your Filofaxes. Although it's not a national holiday in many countries, our diaries label Shrove Tuesday on February 20 of this year (the day before Ash Wednesday).

Does anybody except me know what this means? I grew up calling it Pancake Tuesday, because that's what my Italian grandmother made us. Big stacks of them for an early, after-school supper.

"Shrive" is an English verb meaning "to confess and obtain absolution for sin." Going to confession was an English tradition on the day (Tuesday) before the start of Lent.

The other common name for this day (Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday) goes back to the pancakes. Ash Wednesday used to be a day of fasting, so in the days before refrigeration, people had to use up perishable items (eggs, butter, milk) before the fast began. Part of the idea is also to stuff yourself to help offset the upcoming deprivation.

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