Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Shrove Tuesday & Carnival
The Fight between Carnival and Lent by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1559AD.
Today is Shrove Tuesday -- and a fine day to be shriven, indeed.
Carnival in Rome by Johannes Lingelbach, 1650AD.
While parts of the Christian world call today "Mardi Gras" or "Carnival," the English custom is to give it the more pious and penitential epitaph of Shrove Tuesday -- recalling the importance of going to Confession to prepare for the season of Lent which is upon us. This quote from the year 1000AD gives us some insight into the orgin of the name: "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]." [From the article on Shrovetide in the Old Catholic Encyclopedia, link below.]
Indeed, Ash Wednesday is on the morrow! Traditionally, the arrival of Ash Wednesday and Lent means the beginning of a period of Fast (excluding Sundays) until the Easter Vigil. While the canonical minimum today is for Fasting on but Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, along with abstinence from blood meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays of Lent, surely it is a wholesome thing to retain the ancient custom of fasting through the entirety of Lent. The custom of eating pancakes on this day, too, betrays the character of a fast that excluded not only the "sweets," but of even meat and eggs. "The English custom of eating pancakes was undoubtedly suggested by the need of using up the eggs and fat which were, originally at least, prohibited articles of diet during the forty days of Lent," notes the old Catholic Encyclopedia in the article below.
Here is a link with some history into Shrovetide or Carnival:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Shrovetide
This link provides some insight into customs associated with this day: