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Palms & Pancakes: All about Shrove Tuesday

By Nathan Costa, Assistant Director of Music & Liturgist

“Shrove Tuesday” is the name given to the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of liturgical season of Lent. The word “shrove” comes from an old English word meaning to “absolve or forgive” and refers to the ancient practice of Christians confessing their sins and being forgiven in the days leading up to Lent so that they may do their works of penance during that coming season. Other traditions know this day as Mardi Gras (French for “Fat Tuesday”) or Carnival (Latin for “goodbye to meat”), both denoting this last day of indulgence before the traditional fasting period of Lent. The custom of eating pancakes on this day dates to the middle ages: communities would use up eggs, butter, and fat that would often be given up or prohibited during Lent. 

At Christ Church Cranbrook we mark this day with a festive community celebration in the style of Mardi Gras, eating pancakes (of course!), enjoying festive music and decorations, and participating in a fun lip-sync battle. At the end of the evening in a brief ceremony in the courtyard we burn the palms from last year’s Palm Sunday, the traditional way of making the ashes for Ash Wednesday. We are reminded that these branches, once symbols of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, dry up, are changed to ash, and so become something new as symbols of the cross and resurrection. So we are called to a new beginning and new life during this season of Lent.