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For many of us, Pancake Day is the highlight of spring, a chance to indulge in a sweet (or savoury) treat and the many themed events, like pancake races or pancake tossing competitions or other games involving cakes made of batter. If you’ve ever wondered where Pancake Day came from and why we celebrate it, read on!

Firstly, Pancake Day is a more colloquial name for a day that has been part of Britain’s calendar for centuries. It’s actually known as Shove Tuesday and is the day that acknowledges the evening of Lent – a time in Christian calendars that sees church goers fast for 40 days and nights before the celebration of Easter. It is also known as Mardi Gras (literally Fat Tuesday in French), Carnival (the Latin for farewell to the flesh) and Fasnacht (the German for night of the fast.) These days in the UK, it is most commonly known as Pancake Day.

Traditionally Shrove Tuesday is a day of confessing your sins before fasting – the word Shrove comes from the Old English ‘shrive’ which translates to “admitting one’s sins” and was a time for using up all the foods that you wouldn’t be permitted to eat during the 40 days of Lent. For instance, eggs and butter were often among the foods that are forbidden as part of the practise, so pancakes were a good way to use them up.

Over the years, a number of traditions surrounding pancakes developed including pancake races, where communities would come together to successfully flip their pancakes in the air whilst racing each other to a finish line. The inspiration for this was said to come from house wives rushing to church to confess their sins before noon and taking their half-finished pancakes with them, flipping them as they went. The race in Olney, Buckinghamshire has been going on since 1445! Another Shrove Tuesday tradition takes place in Westminster, where school children compete to grab the largest pieces of pancake they can as it is tossed over a 5-meter bar – something that is known as pancake Grease. In some places, the tradition became to play football – such a game still takes place in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, where the goals are three miles apart and the game is played over 2 days with entire communities taking part.

Like Easter, Pancake Day takes place on a different day each year because unlike Christmas, which is always 25th December, Easter, Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday and Lent are calculated by the cycles of the moon – this year Pancake Day falls on 1st March, so this is a great excuse to get your batter ready and your favourite toppings out.




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