Shrovetide is the English equivalent of what is known in the greater part of Southern Europe as the "Carnival", a word which, in spite of wild suggestions to the contrary, is undoubtedly to be derived from the "taking away of flesh" (camera levare) which marked the beginning of Lent.
The English term "shrovetide" (from "to shrive", or hear confessions) is sufficiently explained by a sentence in the Anglo-Saxon "Ecclesiastical Institutes" translated from Theodulphus by Abbot Aelfric (q.v.) about A.D. 1000: "In the week immediately before Lent everyone shall go to his confessor and confess his deeds and the confessor shall so shrive him as he then my hear by his deeds what he is to do [in the way of penance]".
In this name shrovetide the religious idea is uppermost, and the same is true of the German Fastnacht (the eve of the fast).
It is intelligible enough that before a long period of deprivations human nature should allow itself some exceptional licence in the way of frolic and good cheer. No appeal to vague and often inconsistent traces of earlier pagan customs seems needed to explain the general observance of a carnival celebration.
The Church repeatedly made efforts to check the excesses of the carnival, especially in Italy. During the sixteenth century in particular a special form of the Forty Hours Prayer was instituted in many places on the Monday and Tuesday of Shrovetide, partly to draw the people away from these dangerous occasions of sin, partly to make expiation for the excesses committed.

(fragment from Catholic Encyclopedia)

SHROVETIDE, last three day before the Lenten fast which begins on Ash Wensday. The Lithuanian name for Shrovedite, Uzgavenes, lays stress on the third day, Shrove Tuesday. The verb uzgaveti means "to eat well and heartily before beginning the fast."
Earlier the Lenten fast was struck, or as people used to say, "dry', i.e., without meat or dairy products. One was also supposed to abstain from all merrymaking. Before that long seven-week fast, the last day for merrymaking and excessive indulgence in food and drink was Shrove Tuesday. On that day one would eat richly, often and to satiety.
In the Shrovetide customs, there are elements which are kindred to different nations. They reach back to pre-Christian times when, to celebrate the coming of spring and the rebirth of vegetation, fertility rites were solemnised. Under the influence of Christianity, the pagan festivals of spring coalesced with merry-making of Shrovetide, and some have remained to this day in the shape of carnivals and masquerades.

Shrovetide earlier was considered a semi-holiday. Some kind of work were continued, others were avoided in the belief that success or misfortune depended on the choose.

Particularly characteristic of Shrovetide were the various masquerades and pranks which are mentioned in historical sources from the beginning of the 15th century. At duck from house to house went the masked men disguised in strange garments, transformed into animals (a horse, a bear, a goat, a crane), demon with pitchforks, figures of death and other evil spirits. As especially common practice was to parity local types: the Jewish peddler, the tramp and the cunning gypsy, the pretended beggar, the doctor who was rarely seen in the village, the uniformed soldier, etc. The maskers would make speeches, sing derisive songs, act out the story of the decrepit old bachelor trying to woo a fair young maiden, splash and spatter single men and women because they had not found mates. In Samogitia the groups of makers would haul around on a sled an effigy in woman's clothing called More or Kotre. After midnight she would be set on a mound and burned, or drowned; this meant the end of winter. Related to the coming fast which was heralded by Shrovetide, there took place impromptu battle between Lasininis (Bacon) and Kanapinis (Hempt); the latter, of course, would win because in Lent oil of hemp was used. The stuffed effigy of Bacon was also either burned or drowned. The amusements of Shrovetide were distinctive, improvised, popular expressions whose original symbolism is lost in antiquity.

(fragment from Catholik Postilla)

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