Shrove Tuesday is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, which in turn marks the beginning of Lent according to the Christian calendar. Shrove Tuesday is a time of celebration and party before the fasts observed during Lent. Traditionally Shrove Tuesday is the last day before the period that Christians call Lent. Lent is the time when Christians prepare for Easter and begins with Ash Wednesday.
Shrove comes from "Shrive" meaning 'to confess'. Shrove Tuesday got its name from the ritual of Shriving where Christians used to confess their sins and forgiven. It is marked as a day of penitence (to clean the soul) and celebration. During the Middle ages, people used to confess so that their sins are forgiven before the season of Lent. Other names of Shrove Tuesday are Mardi Gras in France, which means Grease or Fat Tuesday. It is also called Shrovetide.
Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. It is a day of cleaning the souls before the fast of Lent. Ashes are also rubbed on the foreheads as a symbol of being sorry. Fasting is observed during Lent to mark the 40 years of the Israelis going through the desert and the traditional 40 days of Jesus fasting in the desert. For Christians it, also a time of penance, prayer, preparation for or recollection of baptism, and preparation for the celebration of Easter. Lent is as old as the 4th century.
In Eastern churches it is known as the six weeks before Palm Sunday. In the West the penitential season begins liturgically with Septuagesima, the ninth Sunday before Easter; the next Sundays are Sexagesima and Quinquagesima. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, the 40th weekday before Easter. Of the Sundays in Lent the fifth is Passion Sunday and the last is Palm Sunday.
The dates for celebration of Shrove Tuesday and Lent are dependent on that of Easter Day. It begins in early February to as late as late March.
During Shrovetide, it is a ritual to make pancakes, Simnel cakes and pancake races and hold old-fashioned football matches, Mothering Sundays. Meals made of grains, flour, and eggs corresponded to the fertile power of the lower world, which was believed to make everything live go up all the way to the crown of the World Tree. Thus, these elements were material symbols of connection between the two worlds. It is customary to entertain guests and enjoy traditional gluttony.
Lent is the season of abstinence, to give up something like something like smoking. It is also a time for Mass gatherings. Abstinence from meat and acts of penance are used as metaphors. Lent has a connection with the deserts to help people face their private demons. Deprivation is considered to be a great evil and to be avoided at all costs. Though Lent is connected with the heart and not the stomach, the season is famous for provoking culinary creativity.
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