Ever wonder why we eat pancakes just before Lent? The tradition dates back to Anglo-Saxon times, when Christians spent Lent in repentance and severe fasting.
So on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the church bell would summon them to confession, where they would be ‘shriven’, or absolved from their sins, which gives us Shrove Tuesday. At home, they would then eat up their last eggs and fat, and making a pancake was the easiest way to do this. For the next 47 days, they pretty well starved themselves.
Pancakes feature in cookery books as far back as 1439, and today’s pancake races are in remembrance of a panicked woman back in 1445 in Olney, Buckinghamshire. She was making pancakes when she heard the shriving bell calling her to confession. Afraid she’d be late, she ran to the church in a panic, still in her apron, and still holding the pan!
Flipping pancakes is also centuries old. A poem from Pasquil’s Palin in 1619 runs: “And every man and maide doe take their turne, And tosse their Pancakes up for feare they burne.”
Some people have noted that the ingredients of pancakes can be used to highlight four significant things about this time of year: eggs stand for creation, flour is the staff of life, while salt keeps things wholesome, and milk stands for purity.
Shrove Tuesday is always 47 days before Easter Sunday and falls between 3rd February and 9th March.