Most of us don’t need an excuse to indulge in a few pancakes, but have you ever wondered why they hold special significance on Shrove Tuesday?
Pancakes have been around for thousands of years and are dished up by many cultures. But in the Christian calendar, Shrove Tuesday falls the day before Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of Lent on the lead up to Easter. Though Pancake Day shifts from year to year, it always falls between 3 February and 9 March and 47 days before Easter Sunday. Historically, on this Tuesday, people attended church to confess their sins. The word ‘shrove’ comes from the word ‘shrive’ which means to ‘absolve’.
Shrove Tuesday falls on Tuesday 5 March this year. The first recorded Pancake Day as we know it was held in the Buckinghamshire town of Olney, in 1445. Even today, its resident ladies celebrate their heritage by competing in the town’s world-famous pancake race. See the race web page if you like! http://olneypancakerace.org/reminders-for-running-the-race
But why the pancakes? There are a few reasons. Firstly, as Lent is a time of abstinence, the day before is traditionally considered the ‘final feast’. Pancakes were once deemed just the treat for this! Secondly, it’s a practical way to use up all the fatty ingredients sitting in the cupboard. Finally, the ingredients themselves are religiously symbolic: milk for purity, eggs for creation, flour for sustenance and salt for wholesomeness.
Over time, Pancake Day has become ingrained in British culture and in that of many other countries besides. If you’re wondering who holds the record for the world’s biggest pancake… it’s The Co-operative Union Ltd, in Manchester, England. On 13 August 1994 in Rochdale, they served up a whopper of a pancake, measuring 15.01m in diameter by 2.5cm deep.
Of course, this simple and versatile supper can also be enjoyed with a wide variety of delicious toppings. Lemon and sugar, syrup, chocolate spread or berries and cream are to name but a few…
Which is your favourite?
Deborah is a freelance writer with an appetite for travel, books and blue cheese. She has worked in colleges and universities in the UK and Australia and also resided in Hong Kong and the UAE. Deborah is a flexible learning enthusiast, who achieved her arts degree majoring in communications and sociology through distance learning.