Pancake Day

Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday, is the traditional feast day before the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday. Pancake Day always falls 47 days before Easter Sunday, and in 2021, this day falls on February 16th. It occurs on a different date each year as it is calculated according to the position of the moon.

So, why is there traditionally a feast on Shrove Tuesday? But more importantly, why is the day also more commonly referred to as Pancake Day?

To answer the first question, let’s dive into some UK history. Christians would mark this period with prayers and abstaining from a whole range of foods, including eggs, fats and meat. 

The word ‘shrove’ comes from the old Roman Catholic practice of being ‘shriven’, which means to confess and to be absolved from one’s sins. The shriving bell would be rung to call people to attend church in order to pray, and ultimately to confess. Before Lent can begin in earnest, all edible and luxury temptations or goods that we take for granted must be removed. As such, Shrove Tuesday was the last day to use up any eggs, flour and fats before embarking on the 40 day fasting period, and pancakes were the quick and easy fix to use up any leftover ingredients.

The Olney Pancake Day Race

As well as giving up luxury food, people were also encouraged to forego fun and enjoyable activities.

So, how is Pancake Day celebrated in the modern era?

Well, in the UK, pancake races form an integral part of Pancake Day celebrations. Many people gather together in fancy dress and have a race while tossing pancakes. According to a legend dating back to 1445, a woman from Olney in Buckinghamshire heard the shriving bell while she was making pancakes. She supposedly ran to the church in her apron while she was still clutching onto her frying pan. For this reason, Olney hosts the largest Pancake Day run in celebration of this religious tradition.   

In short, Pancake Day is one of the most indulgent days of the calendar year. The Monday and Tuesday before Lent were periods of great festivity before the approaching days of abstinence.  

What do you think about this typical British tradition? Let us know your thoughts!