I am sure, like most of us at Roy’s Boys, many of you are looking forward to a delicious Shrove Tuesday.
Pancake Day, Shrove Tuesday, or Mardi Gras (meaning "fat Tuesday” in French) is a day to indulge in pancakes and other rich, fatty foods before the start of Lent. Shrove Tuesday, as it is officially known, is an annual celebration that takes place on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. This year, it will fall on Tuesday, February 21.
After two back-to-back Tuesdays of celebrations, one on Valentine’s Day (14th) and the other on Pancake Day (21st), Shrove Tuesday will mark the start of the Lenten period. But why is Shrove Tuesday so popular, and what are some old tales behind its origin?
The origins of Pancake Tuesday can be traced back to the Christian tradition of Lent. The Lenten period is a 40-day penitential preparation for Easter. For Christians, it is a time of fasting and abstinence. The dates may vary every year, but it will always take place six and a half weeks before Easter Sunday. Although it is a Christian tradition, it is widely practised by most individuals across the country and the world in general. During this time, most Christians are encouraged to give up certain luxuries in order to focus on spiritual reflection and repentance. However, today, some believers and non-believers use this period to give up their guilty pleasures. Some prefer to give up sweets, meat, alcohol, eating out, or something else that could be considered a personal sacrifice.
Celebrated the day before Ash Wednesday, Shrove Tuesday marks the last day before the start of Lent and is traditionally a day for feasting and celebration. The idea behind this is that the ingredients used to make pancakes, such as butter, sugar, and eggs, in the olden days were considered luxurious items. By using up the luxuries on Shrove Tuesday, people were able to enjoy one last extravagance before the start of their fast.
The significance of Shrove Tuesday goes beyond just food. In the UK, the day is also associated with various traditions and customs. One of the most well-known traditions is pancake racing, where participants race through the streets while carrying a frying pan with a pancake in it.
Although its origins are unclear, this tradition is believed to have originated in the town of Olney in Buckinghamshire in the 15th century. Legend has it that a woman in Olney was in the middle of making pancakes when she heard the church bells ringing for the start of the service. Not wanting to be late, she ran to the church in her apron, carrying her frying pan and a pancake in hand, thus starting the tradition of pancake racing. Even to this day, Olney pancake racing is one of the most famous races in the UK and is held every year.
Another tradition associated with Shrove Tuesday is the custom of “pancake bell ringing.” In some towns and villages, the church bells are rung at a specific time to signal the start of pancake making. This is said to have originated from the days when people didn't have clocks or watches, and the church bell was used to mark the time.
In addition to these traditions, Shrove Tuesday is also celebrated in other ways throughout the UK. Some organise pancake parties or pancake breakfasts, while others attend pancake-themed events such as pancake eating contests or pancake flipping competitions. It is beautiful how, even after years, some traditions still live. The beauty is in honouring and upholding long-standing customs, involving the younger generation, and indulging in them while making new memories.
Call it Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day—it is a significant day in the UK and is deeply rooted in our traditions and customs. While it is primarily a day for indulging in pancakes and other rich foods, it also provides an opportunity for people to come together and celebrate before the start of the solemn and reflective period of Lent.
Want to make Shrove Tuesday a little more interesting this year? Below are five famous pancake recipes to try out!
Traditional Pancakes | National Trust by Rachel Whiting
Pancakes for Kids | Cooking With My Kids by Helen
Fluffy American Pancakes | BBC Good Food by Barney Desmazery
Vegan Pancakes | Great British Chefs by Ella Timney
Rainbow Pancakes | BBC Good Food by Miriam Nice
Do you have any signature pancake recipe that you make every year? Why not let us know in the comments below?
*The above recipe links will take you to external sites with no affiliation to Roy's Boys.