USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘shrove tuesday’
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Rituals, festivals, holidays

Shrove Tuesday

Main Piece: “Shrove Tuesday is…uh…the last day before Lent. Lent…uh…precedes Easter. Lent lasts about I think a month and during Lent one does not eat as much. So one is more…um…frugal about eating. So the last day before Lent is called Shrove Tuesday and on that day, people eat a lot of pancakes. And the pancakes are tossed in a pan and people like to see how high they can toss them. They usually have lemon on them…squeezed lemon…they’re very nice. And that is the only time of the year that we ate pancakes, just that one day.”

Background: The informant, who grew up in the English countryside, began celebrating Shrove Tuesday as early as he can remember, but stopped around age 16, as the tradition was dying out. He celebrated this holiday at home with family. He notes that eating pancakes was the most enjoyable part of Shrove Tuesday. When asked about the name of the holiday, the informant said “shrove” comes from “shrive” which means to “absolve,” and in terms of this holiday, he thinks it means absolving one’s sins. However, the informant says he and his family did not celebrate Shrove Tuesday in that way.

Performance Context: We spoke over the phone.

My Thoughts: The informant understands Shrove Tuesday as a dying tradition. It seems to have already taken on another form when the informant was celebrating the holiday. As the informant noted, the name “Shrove Tuesday” didn’t accurately describe the holiday he celebrated. Most interesting and special to the informant was the pancake meal, since it was a rare meal to have. As the tradition began to be less celebrated by the informant, the foodways were the only particularly noteworthy component of the holiday. I think of the ways “Shrove Tuesday” in England parallels “Fat Tuesday” in the U.S., where the same notions of celebratory eating are present before the culmination of Lent.

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