HISTORY OF SHROVE MONDAY
The Monday before Ash Wednesday is known as Shrove Monday. The three days before Ash Wednesday is also known as “Shrovetide,” starting with Quinquagesima Sunday and ending on Shrove Tuesday, known more popularly as Mardi Gras. Quinquagesima meant the fiftieth day before Easter, or specifically the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday which marked the beginning of Lent. Shrove is the past tense of shrive and is an Old English word meaning “to repent.” Repentance from sin was a common practice during this season.
The Royal Shrovetide Football Match is typically played on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, England tracing back to the time of Henry II in the 12th century (think of the play/movie “The Lion in Winter.”)
As we’ll see in tomorrow’s article on Mardi Gras, meat was usually avoided during the Lenten period of 40 days. So during Shrovetide, immediately before Ash Wednesday, various meat dishes were enjoyed. Another name for Shrove Monday is Collop Monday. Collop is an Elizabethan English word that means a small piece of bacon, which was a part of the breakfast meal eaten on this day. The remaining fat was often kept for making pancakes the next day, on Shrove Tuesday.
Rose Monday, in German-speaking countries, is a transliteration of Rosenmontag which means “running Monday” and is the highlight of the German “Karneval” procession.
This day is also called Hall Monday and Merry Monday.
In the eastern part of Europe and beyond it goes by other names. Clean Monday in Greece is also known as Pure, Ash, or Green Monday. While eating meat, eggs, and dairy products are traditionally forbidden during Lent to Orthodox Christians, fish is eaten on major feast days. Shellfish and mollusks are enjoyed on Clean Monday. Kite flying is a popular activity at this time. St Thomas Christians in India and other Eastern Catholic churches observe some of these practices.
Will you strive to shrove this season?
Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian