There’s more to Shrove Tuesday than pancakes

Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day to many of us is the day prior to Ash Wednesday. Shrove Tuesday traditionally marked the day of a feast before the start of the 40 day period of Lent. The date varies every year between 3rd February and 9th March but will always be 47 days before Easter Sunday. In 2018, Shrove Tuesday falls on 13th February with Easter Sunday arriving on 1st April.

Why do we eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday?

In the past, Christians would undergo a ritual called ‘shriving. This is where people would confess their sins and be forgiven, releasing them from the guilt and pain it’s caused them. The word shriving lends its name to Shrove Tuesday. In the week immediately before Lent, everyone would go and see their confessor to confess their deeds. Your time was rang out by a bell. This tradition is dated back over 1,000 years and the bell is still sounded today.

During Lent, Christians would eat foods that would not give pleasure, this meaning no meat, dairy products or eggs. The week building up to Shrove Tuesday would be the time for Christians to use up their rich foods, leading to the tradition of pancakes.

Pancake Day Traditions

Shrove Tuesday in Scarborough
Shrove Tuesday in Scarborough

In addition to the pancakes, Shrove Tuesday has many other traditions. Many towns held a mob  football match. Dating back to the 17th century, the matches died out after the passing of the highways act 1835 which banned football on public roads. A small number of towns across the UK do still uphold the tradition.

The town crier of Scarborough in North Yorkshire rings the pancake bell to start their day’s festivities. The day is considered a half holiday, with schools closing and families heading down to the seafront to skip by the beach.

The children of Whitechapel, a hamlet in Lancashire visit local households and ask “please for a pancake”, to be given oranges or sweets in return. The tradition is thought to have arisen from farm workers asking local wealthier residents for fillings for their pancakes.

The most common site across the UK on Shrove Tuesday is a pancake race. Tradition dates back to 1445 and says that a housewife in Olney, Buckinghamshire was so busy making pancakes she lost track of time. Hearing the church bells, she ran out the house, frying pan in hand flipping the pancake so it wouldn’t burn. Today, the race in Olney stretches 415 yards and female contestants must toss the pancake from start to finish wearing a scarf or apron.

Pancake World Records

Largest Pancake

The world’s largest pancakes was made in Manchester in 1994 by the Co-operative Union Ltd. It measured a whopping 15.01m in diameter and 2.5cm in thickness. It weighed 3 tonnes and took a couple of cranes to flip it.

Shrove Tuesday. The largest pancake was over 15 metres in diameter
The world’s largest pancake was over 15 metres in diameter
Most people tossing pancakes

890 people tossed pancakes in Sheffield in 2012. 930 people participated but unfortunately 40 had to be discounted due for either dropping their pancakes or not flipping in the allotted time.

Most pancakes made in 1 hour by an individual

Ross McCurdy from Washington, USA made a staggering 1,092 pancakes in a single hour.

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