Shrove Tuesday is always celebrated the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.
It is known to be the day of penitence, a way to confess your sins and receive absolution to cleanse the soul. This Christian ritual is known as ‘Shriving’ hence the name. When a person has received absolution from their sins, they are released from guilt and forgiven for the pain they may have caused.
Over 1000 years ago a monk wrote in the Anglo-Saxon Ecclesiastical Institutes:
In the week immediately before Lent everyone shall go to his confessor and confess his deeds and the confessor shall so shrive him.
Shrove Tuesday was your last chance to indulge yourself and use up excess food so it didn’t waste as most religious groups fast for 40 days for lent. One of the easiest ways to use up fat, milk and eggs was by making pancakes and the pancakes themselves are part of an ancient tradition.
The pancake has featured in cookery books dating back to 1439. Even the action of tossing the pancake is an ancient tradition with Pasquil’s Palin’s quote back in 1619 stating:
And every man and maide doe take their turne, And tosse their Pancakes up for feare they burne.
It is believed that the ingredients for pancakes are symbolic with their meanings being:
Eggs – Creation;
Flour – The staff of life;
Salt – Wholesomeness;
Milk – Purity;
The next time you enjoy a pancake on Shrove Tuesday, you’ll know exactly the history behind it.