Shrove Tide (A. S. scrifan, to absolve in confession), the days immediately preceding Ash Wednesday. These days were so designated because on them, and especially on the last of them, people were wont to confess their sins as a preparation for Lent. Shrove tide or confession tide comprised a whole week in some countries. In most Roman Catholic countries it began on the Sunday before Lent. While the ancient penitential canons were in vigor, all adults were enjoined to present themselves to the bishops and priests, in order that private penitents might be shriven in private and assigned a day for receiving communion, and that public penitents might be instructed as to what they should do to be reconciled at Easter. This practice continued substantially long after public penance had fallen into disuse. It is mentioned in the homilies of Aelfric (died about 1005) as being in force in England in his time. Shrove tide soon became a season of feasting and merriment, especially Shrove Tuesday, the eve of the long Lenten fast. This day is still called mardi gras (fat Tuesday) by the French, and Shrove tide is known to them as les jours gras.
Shrove Tuesday is also popularly called Pancake Tuesday in English-speaking countries, from the common practice of eating pancakes on that day, the use of eggs having been formerly forbidden during Lent.