Shrove Tuesday was once a church-only event at the Urbana Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, but it recently opened its doors to the whole community, inviting it to share the traditional pancake and sausage supper.
The meal will be served February 25, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the church, 230 Scioto Street. The Kenton Street entrance is handicapped accessible and an elevator is available to ferry guests to the lower level dining room.
Ruth Vance heads this annual event which has attracted capacity crowds of all ages. Food is prepared on site and features real maple syrup from the Champaign County farm of Marc and Shary Stadler. There is no charge, but donations are welcome.
Shrove Tuesday was observed in the early Anglican Church of England. After the Revolution, most Americans left the Anglican Church for the Episcopalian, but many of the traditions and practices, including Shrove Tuesday, were continued.
The word shrove comes from shrive, to be absolved after confession and repentance. Shrove Tuesday precedes Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. In order to enter Lent in a state of grace, it was mandated that all must repent and be shriven, absolved.
So, when did eating pancakes enhance one’s chances of being shriven? Legend has it that during Lent rich, fatty foods were forbidden so, on Lenten Eve, eggs, sugar and butter were made into pancakes and eaten to remove temptation for the coming season of prayer and fasting.
Another centuries-old Shrove Tuesday custom is the tolling of church bells. Before other forms of communication, tolling, “telling,” announced events. The Shrove Tuesday bell alerted the faithful to confession—-and to begin baking pancakes.
This tradition may have contributed to another—-the British Pancake Race still observed in parts of England. It is claimed that a woman frying pancakes heard the Shrove Tuesday church bell and realized she was late for services. She grabbed the pan and ran, tossing the still-cooking cake.
Likewise, participants in the English pancake race run a marked course through the streets, carrying frying pans and flipping pancakes as they go.
In some countries, including the United States, the Shrove Tuesday observance is known as Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, serving the same purpose as the pancake meal, consumption of rich foods not to be eaten during Lent.
Mardi Gras, however, has become a full-blown carnival of self-indulgence: feasting on extravagant foods, parties and parades of elaborately costumed revelers, music and dancing in the streets.
Shrove Tuesday at the Church of the Epiphany does not require costume or confession, but guarantees a warm welcome, unconditional shriving and real maple syrup.
Information from Urbana Episcopal Church of the Epiphany.