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The "Shrove" of Shrove Tuesday most properly refers to "being shriven", an archaic term for confessing one's sins. It was the custom for many centuries - and still is in many places - to have personal and/or corporate Confession (the Sacrament of Reconciliation) on Shrove Tuesday as a way of preparing for the Season of Lent, which begins the following day - with 'Ash Wednesday'.|
Shrove Tuesday is sometimes called 'Fat Tuesday' or 'Greasy Tuesday'. This latter is the literal meaning of 'Mardi Gras'.
This peculiar name for Shrove Tuesday arose out of the fact that the Season of Lent is a season of fasting. Therefore the day before Ash Wednesday, the fat of the land - things like eggs and butter and rich sauces and dairy products - were consumed in a kind of last chance to enjoy oneself personal and/or corporate feast.
In North America among religious and non-religious alike it has been a custom to have communal Pancake Suppers on Shrove Tuesday. The consumption of pancakes, or 'blini' (crepes) just before Lent begins is also found in the European and Eastern Orthodox traditions. Pancakes or Blini, of course, tend to use up all those products forbidden during fasting.
Rev. Linda Shevlin of Arnold Mills UMC makes the connection between this clearing of the home of all products that might prove to be a temptation during the season of fasting and the Old Testament pre-Passover cleansing of houses/kitchens from leaven.
The true cleansing, of course, happens not when people gather to eat pancakes with melting butter and maple syrup from Canada - but when the faithful confess their sins, admit that they are but dust and ashes, and in humility, are ready to receive the word of God's love and forgiveness.
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