British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

A calendar of the traditional customs, practices & rituals of the British Isles.

Home Main Menu Order Support About Search

Share page  

Previous Contents Next

C2                                  SHROVE TUESDAY.                       [FEB. 3.
St. Blasius is the 3rd of February, when it is customary in many parts of England to light fires on the hills on St. Blayse night: a custom anciently taken up, perhaps, for no better reason than the jingling resemblance of his name to the word " blaze."
Candles offered to St. Blaze.—In honour of St. Blaze there formerly were offered to him candles, which after receiving benediction were considered holy, and became highly serviceable to all pious uses.
Clavis Calendaria, Brady, 1812. vol. i. p. 299. Beauties of England and Wales, Brayley and Britton, 1809, vol. ii. p. 418.
Shrove Tuesday derives its distinctive epithet in English, from the custom of the people in applying to the priest to shrive them, or hear their confessions, before entering on the great fast of Lent the following day. Its Latin and Con­tinental names have all a reference to the last time of eating flesh. After the people had made the confession required by the ancient discipline of the Church, they were permitted to indulge in festive amusements, though re­stricted from partaking of any repasts beyond the usual substitutes for flesh; hence the name carnaval, etymologi-cally signifying, Flesh, fare thee well. From this cause originated the custom of eating pancakes at Shrove­tide, which began on the Sunday before the first in Lent. Med. AEvi Kalend. vol. i. p. 158.
That none, however, might plead forgetfulness of the ceremony of confessing and being shriven, the great bell was rung at an early hour in every parish, and in after times this ringing was still kept up in some places, though the cause of it ceased with the introduction of Protestantism; it then got the name of the Pancake Belt.
Taylor, the water poet (in his Jacke-a-Lent Workes, 1630, vol. i. p. 115), gives the following curious account as to the way in which Shrove Tuesday was celebrated in olden times;
Previous Contents Next