Shrovetide: the religious meaning behind Carnival

Which are the main differences between Shrovetide and Carnival? As Catholic, how do we celebrate this pre-Lent Season? All we need to know about the religious meaning behind Carnival, and all we need to do to properly live these significant days.

Shrovetide: what is it?

Shrovetide, also known as the Pre-Lent Season, is a time of spiritual, and physical preparation before the beginning of the liturgical season of Lent. The word Shrovetide comes from the Middle English verb “to shrive”, that meant “to confess.” Shrovetide was, in fact, a spiritual time dedicated to self-examination and confession of sins. The Pre-Lent Season starts on the Septuagesima Sunday (the ninth Sunday before Easter) and ends the day before Ash Wednesday (Shrove Tuesday) when Lent begins.

Shrovetide and Carnival: what’s the difference?

As we can easily notice, Shrovetide and Carnival coincide. Both represent a time of reflection and confession that should prepare our soul, and our body as well, for the next 40 days of penance and self-denial. At the same time, however, these days before Lent were originally considered as the last chance to satisfy any material needs before a time of food abstinence and penitence. That’s why, Carnival was, and still is nowadays, associated with joyful merrymaking, exuberant costumes, and abundant banquets.

Shrovetide (Carnival) dates

As previously said, Shrovetide begins on the ninth Sunday before Easter and ends on Ash Wednesday. In 2020, for example, it begins on February 9th and will finish on Shrove Tuesday, February 25th.

The religious spirit behind Carnival

Carnival is celebrated all over the world. Many countries, such as Italy and Brazil, still observe ancient and spectacular traditions. Yet, as we participate in the exuberant festivities, let’s focus on the spiritual meaning of this period, too. Religious items and holy images, together with daily prayers such as the Rosary prayer, can help us live the Pre-Lent Season in the best way.