Monday, February 26, 2018

What happened to Shrove Tuesday? Asks Tricia McGill

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As I have mentioned before, I attended a small church school for the first 6 years of my school days. I loved that little school as we got to go to all the religious festivities, my favourites being what we called Pancake Day but I much later learnt was Shrove Tuesday, and the harvest festival held at our local church. We would have to take a basket of fruit or vegetables along which the priest assured us was then distributed to the local disadvantaged people. 

I also loved Sunday School as we got to hear all those amazing stories from the best story book of all time—the bible. Call me a sinner but the only time I visit church nowadays is for a wedding or funeral and even these are few and far between as either my younger relatives get married in their garden or go over to Bali or similar and marry on a beach, and most funeral wakes are held at the funeral parlour.

Anyway, the essence of this post is to find out why we (or should I say I?) don’t hear much about Pancake Tuesday any more. Perhaps this is due to me not living in the UK now as it still seems to be a tradition that is held up over there to this day.

While searching online I came across an informative post at:
My thanks go to its creator Ellen Castelow for the following facts and figures:

Shrove Tuesday is held before the start of Lent, which for Christians is the 40 days leading up to Easter (a traditional time of fasting) It always falls 47 days before Easter Sunday. The bell that would call people to confession was called the Pancake Bell and this apparently is still rung today. So that blows my theory of Pancake Day not existing any more out the window.

So, back to Pancake Tuesday which to me was a fantastic celebration. I’ve always loved them and we would have them at home with sugar and lemon or in good times with golden syrup atop. As most everyone knows they are made of batter and fried in a pan. The story goes that the tradition started as far back as 1439. Shrove Tuesday was the last chance the housewives had to use up the simple ingredients of eggs, flour, salt and milk before Lent. Even I, terrible cook that I am, can master such an easy recipe. I doubt I could manage the racing and tossing them as I go with much skill though.

A pancake race of some repute is held in Olney, Buckinghamshire each year and the original started some 600 years or more ago when a woman of this town heard the shriving bell calling them to confession while still in the process of cooking pancakes and headed off to church clutching her frying pan. Rule is that the women of the town must wear their apron and have either a hat of scarf on their heads. The pancake must be tossed three times during the race. 

Many towns and villages throughout England still carry on the tradition in some form. Also, some towns held a football match on the day, but a lot of these have died out.

Something I didn’t realise is that in some countries Shrove Tuesday is known as ‘Mardi Gras’, meaning Fat Tuesday in French. So, there is the connection with using up food before Lent. Mardi Gras celebrations are famously held in Rio de Janeiro, New Orleans, and Venice. And news to me, is that the Mardi Gras held in Sydney Australia each year is connected, although this year is to be held on 3rd March.


Acknowledgements also go to this site for more information garnered about Shrove Tuesday: 

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