Friday, February 9, 2024

Preview: The End of Shrovetide/Mardi Gras/Carnival/Fasching on the Son Rise Morning Show

In order, from the title: Shrovetide in England/Mardi Gras in Louisiana/Carnival in parts of Europe/Fasching in Germany; not to mention the Liturgical pre-Lenten season of Septuagesima! These are all different names for the lead-up to Lent, which was at least partially a practical matter of emptying out the larder of meat and meat by-products before the very strict Lenten period of fasting and abstinence. 

On the Son Rise Morning Show on Monday, February 12, we'll talk about Shrovetide and the Pancake Races held in England and in Liberal Kansas (!): the background for Pancake Day and free short stacks at various locations in the USA! I'll be on at our usual time, about 7:50 a.m. Eastern/6:50 a.m. Central. Listen live here or catch the podcast later. 

Here is a good source for a description of Shrovetide and Shrove Tuesday:

Shrove Tuesday is the last day of what traditionally was called "Shrovetide," the weeks preceding the beginning of Lent. The word itself, Shrovetide, is the English equivalent for "Carnival," which is derived from the Latin words carnem levare, meaning "to take away the flesh." (Note that in Germany, this period is called "Fasching," and in parts of the United States, particularly Louisiana, "Mardi Gras.") While this was seen as the last chance for merriment, and, unfortunately in some places, has resulted in excessive pleasure, Shrovetide was the time to cast off things of the flesh and to prepare spiritually for Lent.

That excessive merriment and pleasure--that is, gluttony and drunkenness--is the reason that some churches started the tradition of the Forty Hours Devotion (Quarant'ore in Italian) leading up to Ash Wednesday, from the last Sunday of the Septuagesima "season", Quinquagesima, through Tuesday. Instead of partying, Catholics were encouraged to adore the Blessed Sacrament in the Monstrance.

Actually, the English term provides the best meaning for this period. "To shrive" meant to hear confessions. In the Anglo-Saxon "Ecclesiastical Institutes," recorded by Theodulphus and translated by Abbot Aelfric about AD 1000, Shrovetide was described--as follows: "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 may hear by his deeds what he is to do in the way of penance." To highlight the point and motivate the people, special plays or masques were performed which portrayed the passion of our Lord or final judgment. Clearly, this Shrovetide preparation for Lent included the confessing of sin and the reception of absolution; as such, Lent then would become a time for penance and renewal of faith.

While this week of Shrovetide condoned the partaking of pleasures from which a person would abstain during Lent, Shrove Tuesday had a special significance in England. Pancakes were prepared and enjoyed, because in so doing a family depleted their eggs, milk, butter, and fat which were part of the Lenten fast. At this time, some areas of the Church abstained from all forms of meat and animal products, while others made exceptions for food like fish. For example, Pope St. Gregory (d. 604), writing to St. Augustine of Canterbury, issued the following rule: "We abstain from flesh, meat, and from all things that come from flesh, as milk, cheese, and eggs." These were the fasting rules governing the Church in England; hence, the eating of pancakes on Shrove Tuesday.

And the eating of bacon on Collop/Shrove Monday!

Here is a recipe for pancakes from the Tudor era: specifically, from The good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchin from 1588:

To make the pancakes:

Take new thicke Creame a pinte, four of five yolks of Egs, a good handful of flower, and two or three spoonfuls of ale, strain them altogether into a faire platter, and season it with a good handful of Sugar, a sooneful of Synamon and a little Ginger: then takea frying pan, and put in a little peece of Butter, as but as your thombe, and when it is molten browne, cast it out of your pan, and with a ladle put to the furthesr side of your pan some of your stuffe, and hole your pan aslope, so that you stuffe may run abroad all ouer all the pan, as thin as may be: then set it to the fyre, and let the fyre be verie soft, and when the one side is bakes, then turne the other, and bake them as dry as ye can without burning.

After one Tudor housewife starting making her pancakes, she heard the church bells ring and ran to church, carrying the frying pan with a pancake in it, still wearing her apron, and tying a scarf around her head--and that's how the tradition of Pancake Races began. Since 1950, ladies in Olney, England and Liberal, Kansas (USA) have competed in the International Pancake Day races!

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