Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Has the Significance of Shrove Tuesday Been Lost?

by Phoebe Warren

The Fight Between Carnival and Lent,
by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1559
(source: Wiki Commons)
Why do we have a selective day for celebrating the making of pancakes? Yes, they're delicious, and easy to make, but why not the rest of the year?
Shrove Tuesday is the day preceding Ash Wednesday. Before the more common association, a day when all the rich, fatty goods were originally used up to start the 40-day fast (for those less acquainted with the Christian teachings, this is Lent). Shrove Tuesday is always exactly 47 days before Easter Sunday, but changes from year to year depending on the cycles of the moon.
However, in terms of the 21st century, Shrove Tuesday is more commonly known as Pancake Day, where most eat savoury pancakes filled with grilled vegetables and meat, then pancakes sweetened with sugar, lemon, strawberries and bananas or chocolate spread. Ash Wednesday has, also, debatably lost its former structure of beginning the 40-day fast. Instead, households go on yet another shopping trip to Tesco to restock all the  ingredients used in the making of the pancakes- fundamentally undermining the whole point.

So: is it just another excuse to eat excessive food without the guilt attached? Probably… 
Hold up a minute though! We can’t put all the blame of this compulsion to eat excessive loads of pancakes on ourselves! We need to conform to the feast of Pancake Day; it’s in-scripted into our blood, our minds. 

Pancake-tossing race

Valentine's Day is far gone, and the next selling adventure is Easter, with Pancake Day being the start of this. It’s a commercial blessing. The supermarkets hype it up: a festival specifically for food indulgence!

Consumers swarm their shops to stock up- ritually and en-masse. Adverts bombard us day in day out; the week prior to P-Day is absolute mayhem. Each time I walk into Waitrose, a one stop shelf of all the pancake ingredients I need to make my ideal evening stands proudly at the front of the store. Also, quite helpfully, the pop-up posters and tactfully-placed Easter-related food items seem to spring up on each aisle, reminding me IT’S NEXT TUESDAY- make sure you’re prepared!

Well, with this useful reminder that P-Day is on the horizon, I, along with my fellow shoppers, most often give into the temptation of picking up that extra pot of Nutella in preparation. As the signs keep telling me: best not to waste this opportunity for a guiltless feast; after all, I remind myself, it’s all in the name of Christianity.

Then, yet again, perhaps Pancake Day is no longer connected to Christianity? Is it possible that supermarket advertising has rebranded this Christian event for us? That, in its place, lies a guiltless day of supreme indulgence in food with no intention to “fast” afterwards?

It’s not as if the supermarkets stop selling food in order to help us in our fasting. Therefore, I come to the conclusion Shrove Tuesday has lost its original purpose and has transformed into yet another commercial event. Not that I’m complaining of course.
So will I still be partaking in Shrove Tuesday this week? Most definitely. And counting the days down to Easter Sunday.

1 comment:

  1. My favourite thing about Shrove Tuesday this year, is that it indicates that there are only 20 more sleeps till #Springwatch2014, the ironic thing is I can't sleep!


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