Why Is the day before Ash Wednesday called Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Tuesday or Fat Tuesday ?

The word ‘shrove is derived from the verb “to shrive” or to “be shrove”. In Old English it meant to confess one’s sins and be absolved. Seen in the context of preparation for Lent, it originally also included receiving the advice of a spiritual counsellor. Having done this, you had been “shrove.”

The Anglo-Saxon “Ecclesiastical Institutes” translated by Abbot Aelfric about A.D. 1000, tells us that in the week immediately before Lent, everyone was expected to go to his or her confessor and confess his deeds and the confessor would ‘so shrive him’ (absolve) after which a penance was given. This means that historically Shrove Tuesday was a period of self-examination. Traditionally, in this week long pre-Lent preparation, the Christian would contemplate their sins that they needed to repent and then make amendments and sacrifices for the Lenten season based on their confession and penance given.

On Shrove Tuesday, the shriving bell would be rung to remind and call people to church to confess. People were encouraged to keep their Lenten sacrifices with an oft heard greeting on that day; “May God bless your Lenten sacrifice.

Sadly today, there is a tendency to organize the sacrament of reconciliation just before the Sacred Tridum, more in preparation for Easter rather than what is was meant to be. Confession and absolution make more sense at the start of the Lenten season; in this way one can begin the season with a clean slate, making a new start with God. 

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