Many of us have come to know today as Shrove Tuesday, the day before the beginning of Lent. Shove Tuesday has long been a favorite church tradition of mine, mostly because the resulting pancake supper. Mardi-Gras in New Orleans has its Fat Tuesday and King Cake, but I’ll take pancakes, bacon and a good old fashion talent show any day.
Other Shrove Tuesday traditions include:
The Pancake Day Race at Olney in Buckinghamshire: Legend has it that on Shrove Tuesday 1445 while cooking pancakes, a woman heard the Shriving bell which summoned the townsfolk to confession. In her haste to get to the church, she ran through the town still wearing her apron and carrying her skillet of pancakes. Today this is reenacted with a race through the town by women wearing dresses and aprons, carrying skillets with a cooking pancake. Each person must flip her pancake three times before reaching the church. The winner is the one who gets to the church fastest, having three flips of the pancake.
Folklore says that it is bad luck to drop a pancake while flipping it. It is said that Napoleon blamed his failure for victory in Russia because of a pancake he dropped during the French Candlemas.
On this eve of Lent it is also tradition that many Christians take a good long look at their lives and examine just what it is they need to confess. After all, the act of acknowledgement and confession of sins is what it means to “shrive.” On the day before Lent begins, tradition states that Christians hear their friends acknowledge their sins, then assure each other of God’s grace and forgiveness. The resulting act of penance is to “give up something for Lent.” As Christian people, we give up something that we come to realize is standing in the way of our relationship with God.
So often we hear folks say, “I’m giving up this or that for Lent.” The most common item I hear people giving up is chocolate. I ask myself, is chocolate really what is standing between God and his people? Perhaps on some level, but on Easter just watch those who gave it up tear into the chocolate bunnies. Aren’t they simply back where they started? In my estimation, it is better to give up something that following the long Lenten journey, one will have removed the stumbling block and not wish to reintroduce it into his/her life. If it is chocolate, well so be it. But perhaps there is an unhealthy habit consuming time keeping you from spending time with God. During Lent, watch a little less TV and read a little more Scripture. By Easter, you will have removed the stumbling block and strengthened your relationship with Christ.
Lent begins tomorrow. There is still time to consider what you might “give up” in order to gain stronger faith. But for now, it is all about the pancakes…not to mention the maple syrup and a tall glass of ice-cold milk. Happy Shrove Tuesday!