Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday, is a special day celebrated in many countries around the world. It is celebrated in the UK, Ireland, Australia and Canada. In France, the USA and other countries, it is called ‘Mardi Gras’ or ‘Fat Tuesday’. In others like Spain, Italy or Brazil, Shrove Tuesday is at the end of Carnival. On this day many people eat pancakes: thin, flat cakes made in a pan.
Pancake Day is always on a Tuesday in February or March. It is the day before Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. Lent is a period of 40 days before Easter when people often give up or stop eating things that are bad for them like chocolate or fast food. At the end of Lent is Easter. Easter takes place on a different date each year because it depends on the moon. Easter Sunday is the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring. Traditionally, during Lent, people didn’t eat rich foods like butter and eggs, so to use them up they made pancakes from these ingredients on Shrove Tuesday.
Another tradition on Pancake Day in the UK is pancake racing. People run in a race with a pancake in a pan. As they run, they have to toss the pancake (throw the pancake in the air and catch it in the pan) several times. In some pancake races people dress up in fancy dress costumes. The most famous pancake race takes place in a town called Olney, in the middle of England. People say that Olney has been celebrating pancake races since 1445!
The race commemorates local folklore – a woman panicked when she heard church bells ringing from her kitchen and, fearing she would be late for a Shriving service to confess her sins before Lent, she ran through the town. After arriving at the Church door in her apron and carrying her frying pan, so began the race local women still take part in today. The race has become a firm tradition in the town, with generations of the same family taking part.