One of the best things about the Episcopal Church are the number of parishes that host Shrove Tuesday Pancake Suppers. Call it what you will -- Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday -- but it's all about the pancakes.
At my own parish, St. John's in Hingham, Massachusetts, it's one of the great highlights of the year with fabulous food, an intergenerational crowd, pancake games, and the ritual burning of the palms from last year's Palm Sunday service to make ashes for the next day's Ash Wednesday liturgies.
But what you do when your community is paralyzed by an insane amount of snow? Throw in a burst pipe in the parish hall, the usual venue for the Tuesday night supper, and you've got an epic flapjack failure. Right?
Not a chance! Because this year we're holding a Virtual Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper. I've encouraged everyone, wherever they are, to join in by...eating pancakes at some point on Tuesday.
Whether it's breakfast, lunch, or dinner; at home, in a restaurant, at a neighbor's house, in an igloo,
And on behalf of my community, we're inviting everyone in the entire Church to participate. How? Eat pancakes! And then post pictures of you eating them to social media with the hashtag #VirtualShrove. Whether you're eating pancakes at church or with your family, why not tell the world we're preparing for Lent?
Oh, and if you're curious as to why it's called Shrove Tuesday? Here you go:
The day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, is known as Shrove Tuesday. To shrive someone, in old-fashioned English (he shrives, he shrove, he has shriven), is to hear his acknowledgement of his sins, to assure him of God's forgiveness, and to give him appropriate spiritual advice. The term survives today in ordinary usage in the expression "short shrift." To give someone short shrift is to pay very little attention to his excuses or problems. The longer expression is, "to give him short shrift and a long rope," which formerly meant to hang a criminal with a minimum of delay.
Shrove Tuesday is also called Fat Tuesday (in French, Mardi Gras) because on that day a thrifty housewife would use up the fats that she had kept around for cooking (the can of bacon drippings for instance). Fatty foods would not be eaten during the penitential season of Lent. Since pancakes were a standard way of using up fat, this day became associated with them. Which is why, of course, so many parishes hold Shrove Tuesday pancake suppers. So this last day before Lent has become the 'feast' to prepare for the time of 'famine' in the desert.