Shrove Tuesday is the day that precedes Ash Wednesday and is the last day before the beginning of the fasting period of Lent. It is also widely known as Pancake Day or Fat Tuesday or the Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras is the French term for “Fat Tuesday”.
The latter names have evolved from the custom of eating rich and nourishing food on this day before one gives them up for a period of forty days to observe the Lent period. Pancakes are typically consumed for the occasion since they are made up of ingredients like milk, eggs and sugar – some of which are prohibited for consumption during the period of Lent. The liturgical fasting emphasizes on consuming plain food and abstaining from the richer kind.
Many communities as such refrain from consuming meat, dairy products and eggs. Shrove Tuesday however is also connected to being shriven – a day of self examination to consider the wrongdoings or sins of the past, make confessions, repent and thereby move towards flourishing spiritual growth.
The word Shrove has been derives from the English word Shrive which means “to confess”. It signifies obtaining absolution by means of Confession and following it up with penance. Shrove Tuesday as such gets its name from the Christian custom of being “Shriven” before the period of Lent begins.
Date of Shrove Tuesday in the next few years:
- 2014: March 04.
- 2015: February 17.
- 2016: February 09.
- 2017: February 28.
- 2018: February 13.
- 2019: March 05.
- 2020: February 25.
History of celebration in the United States:
- The day is first believed to have been celebrated in the United States in the year 1703 in the Mobile County in the State of Alabama by the French colony of soldiers.
- In the same place, the event took the shape of a parade in 1840 under the leadership of by the Cowbellion de Rakin Society.
- Later this custom was taken to New Orleans by the same group in the year 1857, where the first Carnival Society named the Mistick Kreweof Comus joined hands to organize the event.
- The event was widely accepted and met with huge success. However, it got suspended during the American Civil War. But the rituals were promptly restored after the war was over.
- After its revival in 1866 the celebrations have continued to flourish till date.
Public Life in the United States:
The day is a State Holiday in Louisiana. In the State of Alabama, only two counties observe the day as public holiday, namely, Baldwin and Mobile. In the State of Mississippi, governing authorities of a county or a municipality have the right to declare this event as a public holiday – however, in that case this day would replace any one of the other public holidays excepting for the Birthday of Martin Luther King which is celebrated in the State in conjunction with the Birthday of Robert E. Lee.
Shrove Tuesday is the last day before the Fasting period of Lent that is observed with much reverence in the Christendom. As such, this day is associated with merrymaking and eating rich nourishing food. Parades and Street Processions are held in some parts of the country. New Orleans in Louisiana and the counties of Mobile and Baldwin in the State of Alabama are especially known for the flamboyance and grandeur of their celebrations.
A typical parade for the occasion is characterized by masquerades and dancing in the streets. The main characters that are focused upon are the King of the Carnival, Monarch of Merriment and Comus (The God of Revelry). People deck up in colorful attires to take part in the merrymaking. Often there is a custom of throwing trinkets to crowds, a custom that is known as Parade Throw. Parade watchers are enthralled by the colorful floats that are often accompanied by marching bands. There is also the tradition of organizing a Ball. This is of great excitement for debutantes for it is here that they are formally introduced in the society. In Galveston, Texas, such parades also feature masked balls, Cajun dances and also jazz performances. Apart from pancakes, feasting also includes the King Cake. There is a custom to hide a pecan or a charm in this King Cake. The person who gets the piece of cake with the charm is attributed the status of the King for the year’s celebrations.
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