Shrovetide, also known as the Pre-Lenten Season, is the Christian period of preparation before the beginning of the liturgical season of Lent. Shrovetide starts on Septuagesima Sunday, includes Sexagesima Sunday, Quinquagesima Sunday (commonly called Shrove Sunday), as well as Shrove Monday, and culminates on Shrove Tuesday, also known as Mardi Gras. One hallmark of Shrovetide is the merrymaking associated with Carnival. On the final day of the season, Shrove Tuesday, many traditional Christians, such as Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists and Roman Catholics, "make a special point of self-examination, of considering what wrongs they need to repent, and what amendments of life or areas of spiritual growth they especially need to ask God's help in dealing with."
In the Roman Rite (pre-1970 form, and today in the Ordinariate Form and Extraordinary Form), and in similar Anglican and Lutheran uses, a pre-Lenten season lasts from Septuagesima Sunday until Shrove Tuesday and has thus also been known as Shrovetide. The Extraordinary form of the Roman Rite that includes this special period of 17 days refers to it as the season of Septuagesima; the Ordinariate Form uses the term Pre-Lent. The liturgy of the period is characterized by violet vestments (except on feasts), the omission of the Alleluia before the Gospel, and a more penitential mood. Fasting does not commence until the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday. The earliest the Pre-Lenten season can begin is January 18 and the latest it can end is March 9. It is absent in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite and more recent Anglican forms of all these traditions, but may be found in some Lutheran churches who use the One-Year Lectionary to organize the church year.
(Candlemas, which can be considered to be the last Christmastime feast, on February 2, can fall in pre-Lent if Easter is early enough. It can never fall in Lent.)
In Northern Germany, local tradition states that if "sausages and sauerkraut are eaten at Shrovetide, good luck will follow". On the last day of Shrovetide, in Bohemia, a man personifies "Shrovetide" in a procession of masqueraders and whoever is able to snatch straw from his hat and place it under a hen in the coming Spring is said to have eggs that surely will hatch.
In the Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite, the pre-Lenten season lasts three weeks, beginning on the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee and continuing through the Sunday of Forgiveness (the day before the beginning of Great Lent). Since the liturgical day begins at sunset, and Great Lent begins on a Monday, the point at which Great Lent begins is at Vespers on the night of the Sunday of Forgiveness, with a "Ceremony of Mutual Forgiveness" (in some monasteries, this ceremony is performed at Compline instead of Vespers). Thus begins the first day of the Great Fast, which is known as Clean Monday. The weeks of pre-Lent and Great Lent are anticipatory by nature; they begin on Monday and end on Sunday, each week being named for the theme of the upcoming Sunday. The hymns used during the Pre-Lenten and Lenten seasons are taken from a book called the Triodion.
The weeks of the Pre-Lenten Season break are:
- Zacchaeus Sunday (Slavic tradition) is sometimes regarded as a pre-Lenten Sunday because of its place in the Slavic lectionary. In that tradition, it is the 11th Sunday before Pascha (Easter). There are no hymns proper to this Sunday, however; its only distinguishing feature is the reading of the Gospel concerning Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). This lectionary reading is sometimes also appointed on the same Sunday in the Byzantine ("Greek") lectionary, as well. The week following this Sunday is a normal, non-Lenten time, since it falls outside the Triodion.
- The Publican and the Pharisee: 10th Sunday before Pascha (70 days). The week following this Sunday is a fast-free week, lest the faithful be tempted, like the Pharisee to boast about fasting.
- The Prodigal Son: 9th Sunday before Pascha (63 days). The week following this Sunday is the last during which the laity may eat meat or meat products. The fasting rules for this week are the same as those for non-Lenten periods.
- The Last Judgment or Meat-Fare Sunday (the last day meat may be eaten): 8th Sunday before Pascha (56 days). The week following this Sunday is called Cheese-Fare Week and is a fast-free week, with the exception that meat and meat products are forbidden.
- Sunday of Forgiveness or Cheese-Fare Sunday: 7th Sunday before Pascha (49 days). This Sunday is the last day dairy products may be consumed. Throughout Great Lent, fish, wine, and olive oil will be allowed only on certain days.
- Gardner, Kevin J. (18 September 2008). Poems in the Porch: The Radio Poems of John Betjeman. A&C Black. p. 56. ISBN 9781441144324.
Septuagesima is the third Sunday before Lent and commences the pre-Lenten season of Shrovetide.
- Lester, G.A. (29 May 2014). Three Late Medieval Morality Plays. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 36. ISBN 9781408144077.
The time-setting is winter (lines 54, 323), but it is not clear whether it is Christmas, as implied by the 'Christmas song' (line 332), or Shrovetide, the pre-Lenten period of merrymaking, when the playing of football (cf. line 732 and note) was one of the ways of enjoying a final fling before the austerities to come.
- Rickaby, John (1920). The Ecclesiastical Year. Joseph F. Wagner. p. 48.
By its name Shrovetide means the time of shrift and is a religious season. It goes along with Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima, as part of the preparation for Lent, which is itself preparatory to the great Easter Festival.
- Whistler, Laurence (5 October 2015). English Festivals. Dean Street Press. p. 86. ISBN 9781910570494.
The Tuesday that follows the first eyelash of a new moon in February is the last of the three days of Shrovetide: preceded by Quinquagesima Sunday and Shrove Monday.
- O'Connor, Kevin (1 January 2006). Culture and Customs of the Baltic States. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 95. ISBN 9780313331251.
As the culmination of the four-day meat-eating period known as Shrovetide, Shrove Tuesday is the last day before Lent, a period of fasting that begins on Ash Wednesday and lasts for 40 days until Easter.
- Beadle, Richard (17 March 1994). The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre. Cambridge University Press. p. 69. ISBN 9780521459167.
One of these was the pre-Lent Carnival extravaganza of Shrovetide, though this seems to have been celebrated to a much lesser extent in Britain than it was (and still is) on the continent: however, we know of English Shrovetide plays, and Mankind bears signs of being one of them (335).
- Walker, Katie (7 March 2011). "Shrove Tuesday inspires unique church traditions". Daily American. Retrieved 4 January 2016.
Many local churches will celebrate Shrove Tuesday tomorrow, a day of feasting commonly known as “pancake day.” Shrove Tuesday is typically observed by Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist and Catholic denominations, but each church celebrates the day in its own, unique way. The Rev. Lenny Anderson of the St. Francis-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church in Somerset said the primary focus of Shrove Tuesday is to prepare for Lent, the period of the liturgical year leading up to Easter.
- Kiefer, James. Shrove Tuesday. Rowan University.
- 2018 ORDO for the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter, ISBN 9781982037147
- 2016 Ordo for use with the 1962 Missale Romanum Forma Extraordinara, Canons Regular of St John Cantius, Biretta Books, Chicago 2015
- "The season of Septuagesima runs from I vespers of Septuagesima Sunday to compline of Tuesday after Quinquagesima Sunday" (1960 Code of Rubrics).
- Daniels, Cora Linn Morrison; Stevens, Charles McClellan (1903). Encyclopaedia of Superstitions, Folklore, and the Occult Sciences of the World: A Comprehensive Library of Human Belief and Practice in the Mysteries of Life. J. H. Yewdale & Sons Company. p. 1577.