1) Otherwise known as ‘Shrove Tuesday’, Pancake Day precedes ‘Ash Wednesday’ which is the start of Lent in the Christian calendar. Lent marks a period of fasting in the run-up to Easter. Shrove Tuesday became a day of using up all fatty foods before Lent, like butter and eggs.
2) ‘Shrove’ comes from the old English word ‘shrive’ roughly meaning ‘to confess’.
3) Before Christianity, Pancake Day was originally a pagan holiday. The Slavs believed that the change of seasons was a struggle between Jarilo, the god of vegetation and springtime, and the evil spirits of cold and darkness. The most important part of the celebration of the arrival of spring, Shrovetide week, was the making of pancakes. It was believed that the hot, round pancakes symbolised the sun and by eating them the Slavs got power, light and warmth from the sun. The first pancake was put on a window for the spirits of the ancestors.
4) According to sources, Britons eat roughly 52 million eggs on pancake day – this is approximately 22 million more than on a regular day.
5) The tradition of tossing pancakes is said to originate from 1445 when a housewife in Olney, Buckinghamshire, was so busy making pancakes that she forgot the time until she heard the church bells ringing for the service. She raced out of the house to church while still carrying her frying pan and pancake, tossing it as she went.
6) Around the world, different countries have their own name for Pancake Day:
- Mardi Gras in France.
- Fastnacht Day for German-American populations.
- In Portugese, Spanish and Italian speaking countries, it is known as Carnival (or carne levare, meaning ‘to take away meat’). It’s often celebrated with street processions or fancy dress, like the Brazilian Carnival in Rio de Janerio.
- In Maderia, on Terça-feira Gorda, they eat malasadas (using up the lard and sugar in the house, much the same was as Pancake Day in the UK). This tradition was taken to Hawaii as Malasada Day.
- In Denmark and Norway it’s known as Fastelavn.
- Iceland = Sprengidagur (Bursting Day).
7) In London, the Rehab Parliamentary Pancake Race takes place every Pancake Day, with teams from the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the Fourth Estate doing a fun run to raise awareness of the charity. Elsewhere in England, many towns had traditional ‘mob football’ games which date from the 12th century until the practice died out in the 19th century.