The day before Ash Wednesday marks Pancake Day in many countries around the world – don’t miss out on eating a stack of panckes on this day!
Pancake Day is also known as part of or as synonymous with Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, or Shrove Tuesday. In Ireland, as well as Anglican, Lutheran and eastern Canada, it is referred to as Pancake Day because it is traditional to eat pancakes on the Tuesday morning before Ash Wednesday.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lent season, a 40 day period (not including Sundays) before Easter. This is traditionally a time of fasting and prayer for believers.
Part of the Lent tradition includes fasting, a practice that helps believers to get closer to God. Some have taken this to mean fasting food all together, fasting rich foods, fasting only meats, but today is usually meant as the giving up of something enjoyable – TV, chocolate, coffee, and etc.
Pancakes are eaten on Tuesday because centuries ago, people had to use up the rich and perishable ingredients like milk, eggs, fatty foods, and sugar before the beginning of their fast on Wednesday. Thus, pancakes and donuts were a quick and easy way to use up these ingredients, as well as a great excuse for having a party or feast before the 40 day fast.
On this day, Christians would also go for confession and would then be absolved of their sins, or “shriven.” This is where the name “Shrove Tuesday” comes from.
Celebrations and Rituals
Pancakes have had a long history and can be found in cookbooks as far back as 1439. Each tradition and culture has reinvented and re-created the pancake. English pancakes are usually thicker and the type we see today. French and German pancakes (crepes) are thinner and often have fillings. Russian pancakes (blinis) are thin and served with caviar, sour cream, cream cheese, or jam.
Along with different types of pancakes, many rituals and celebrations have evolved for Pancake Day.
In the United Kingdom, pancake races are very popular and were held since 1445. The pancake race contestants would carry a frying pan with a pancake on it. They would have to race down the street while flipping the pancake without dropping the pancake. Whoever tosses the pancake the right number of times and crosses the finish line first wins the race. One of the highest records was set by Ralf Laue from Leipzig with 416 tosses in 2 minutes.
More? Read our article of Lent Celebrations, Foods & Rituals from Around the World.