Posted on February 13, 2024 07:01

Hello Everyone,

As I prepare for Lent this year, my memories went back to remember the times on this day that my late wife Theresa would bake for our daughters the traditional "King" cake with the figurines inside. This prompted a desire for me to do some historical research looking at how diffrent cultures prepare the liturgical events. I found an article on the Encylopaedia Briticanica that I found somewhat fascinating. See below.

God Bless!

Tim D

Shrove Tuesday

"Shrove Tuesday. Ash Wednesday is a solemn reminder of human mortality and the need for reconciliation with God and marks the beginning of the penitential Lenten season."

Shrove Tuesday, the day immediately preceding Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent in Western Christian churches. It occurs between February 2 and March 9, depending on the date of Easter.

 Picture: Shrove Tuesday Carnival in Binche, Belgium

Shrove, derived from shrive, refers to the confession of sins as a preparation for Lent, a usual practice in Europe in the Middle Ages. Although the day is sometimes still used for self-examination and introspection, Shrove Tuesday eventually acquired the character of a carnival or festival in many places and is often celebrated with parades.

For example, in the Shrove Tuesday Carnival held in Binche, Belgium, revelers known as Gilles (after a clown-like stock character in commedia dell’arte named Gille) march through the town dressed in red, yellow, and black costumes and wax masks. Later they don ostrich-feather hats and throw oranges to onlookers.

Louisiana-style king cake for Mardi Gras.

As the final day before the austerity of the Lenten fast, Shrove Tuesday has many customs pertaining to food—in particular, sweet foods containing eggs, sugar, and fat, which were commonly forbidden during Lent and would otherwise go to waste in the six and a half weeks between Ash Wednesday and Easter. Pancakes are the traditional choice in a number of European countries; the day is known as Pancake Day or Pancake Tuesday in Ireland and in many Commonwealth countries. Similarly rich pre-Lenten treats include pa̡czki, fruit-filled deep-fried pastries similar to doughnuts that are enjoyed in Poland and in ethnic Polish communities in the United States. An iconic part of Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”) in New Orleans is the king cake, an iced ring-shaped pastry that is sprinkled with gold, green, and purple sugar and typically contains a plastic figurine representing the baby Jesus. Traditionally, the person who receives the piece of king cake containing the figurine is named “king” or “queen” of the Mardi Gras festivities and is obligated to host the next party of the season. 

Ash Wednesday 

(Christian holy day)

Feb. 13, 2024, 8:09 AM ET (AP)

Ash Wednesday and Valentine's Day fall on the same day this year. Here's what you need to know

Ash Wednesday, in Western Christianity, the first day of Lent, occurring six and a half weeks before Easter (between February 4 and March 11, depending on the date of Easter). It is immediately preceded by Shrove Tuesday. Ash Wednesday is a solemn reminder of human mortality and the need for reconciliation with God and marks the beginning of the penitential Lenten season. It is commonly observed with the distribution of ashes and with fasting. Eastern Orthodox churches begin Lent on Clean Monday and therefore do not observe Ash Wednesday.

In the early Christian church, the length of the Lenten celebration varied, but eventually it began 6 weeks (42 days) before Easter. This provided only 36 days of fasting (excluding Sundays). In the 7th century, 4 days were added before the first Sunday in Lent in order to establish 40 fasting days, in imitation of Jesus Christ’s fast in the desert.

It was the practice in Rome for penitents and grievous sinners to begin their period of public penance on the first day of Lent in preparation for their restoration to the sacrament of the Eucharist. They were sprinkled with ashes, dressed in sackcloth, and obliged to remain apart until they were reconciled with the Christian community on Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter. When these practices fell into disuse (8th–10th century), the beginning of the penitential season of Lent was symbolized by placing ashes on the heads of the entire congregation.


Written and fact-checked by The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica

Last Updated: Feb 13, 2024 • Article History

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