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Pancake day is here! But do you know why we have pancakes on Shrove Tuesday?

Britons are looking forward to making and devouring pancakes with family and friends this Pancake Day. But when is Shrove Tuesday and what is the history behind it?


When is pancake day? 

This year Pancake Day is on Tuesday February 28. Pancake Day, also known as Pancake Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday, is the day before the first day of Lent, known as Ash Wednesday. Pancake Day also takes the French name of Mardi Gras, meaning Fat Tuesday, mainly because we use up fatty foods before Lent. Shrove Tuesday is always 47 days before Easter Sunday so Pancake Day falls sometime between February and March every year.

What is Shrove Tuesday? 

The name Shrove Tuesday comes from 'shrive', meaning absolution for sins by doing penance. The day gets its name from the tradition of Christians trying to be 'shriven' before Lent. Christians around the world see Shrove Tuesday as a day for reflection and self-examination. In the past, Catholic christians wouldgo to Confession, where they would admit their sins to a priest and ask for absolution. A bell, which was called the 'pancake bell', would berung to call them to Confession. and it’s still rung today.

Why pancakes? 

In the past, the idea was for families to clear out their cupboards and remove the fattening foods (normally the tempting ones) so they weren't in their house during Lent. Eggs, milk and sugar aren't traditionally eaten in fasting season, so need to be scoffed beforehand. Pancakes are an easy way to use up eggs, butter and milk as well as other fatty foods like chocolate spread and sugar in people’s kitchens.

Why do we have a Pancake Day race? 

Many villages and towns across Britain will celebrate Pancake Day with pancake races where people run while flipping pancakes. It involves a large number of people normally in fancy dress, racing down streets tossing pancakes. The idea is to get to the finish line first, while carrying the frying pan and flipping the pancake without dropping it. Each contestant has to toss the pancake three times during the race. The first woman to get to the church, complete the course, serve the pancake to the bellringer and kiss him is the winner. The most famous race is in Olney in Buckinghamshire.

Other traditions 

There's also the annual Pancake Grease at Westminster School in London. A verger from Westminster Abbey leads a procession of boys into the playground where the school cook tosses a pancake over a five-metre high bar. The children then race to grab some of the pancake - the one who ends up with the largest piece receives a cash prize from the Dean.
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Peartree Languages is a language school located in Cardiff.

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