Shrove Tuesday (also known as Pancake Day) is the day preceding Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Shrove Tuesday is observed mainly in English speaking countries, especially Ireland, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand and Canada but is also observed in Philippines and Germany. Shrove Tuesday is linked to Easter, so its date changes on an annual basis. In most traditions the day is known for the eating of pancakes before the start of Lent. Pancakes are eaten as they are made out of the main foods available, sugar, fat, flour and eggs, whose consumption was traditionally restricted during the ritual fasting associated with Lent
Pancakes are associated with the day preceding Lent because they were a way to use up rich foodstuffs such as eggs, milk, and sugar, before the fasting season of the 40 days of Lent. The liturgical fasting emphasized eating plainer food and refraining from food that would give pleasure: In many cultures, this means no meat, dairy, or eggs. In Canada, Australia, England, Ireland and New Zealand among Anglicans, Lutherans, some other Protestant denominations, including ethnic British communities, as well as Catholics, this day is also known as Pancake Tuesday, as it is customary to eat pancakes. In Newfoundland and Labrador small tokens are frequently cooked in the pancakes. Children take delight in discovering the objects, which are intended to be divinatory. For example, the person who receives a coin will be wealthy; a nail that they will be (or marry) a carpenter, and such (unless they swallow it) 😀
In England, as part of community celebration, many towns held traditional Shrove Tuesday football (‘Mob football’) games, dating as far back as the 12th century. The practice mostly died out in the 19th century, after the passing of the Highway Act 1835, which banned playing football on public highways. A number of towns have maintained the tradition, including Alnwick in Northumberland, Ashbourne in Derbyshire (called the Royal Shrovetide Football Match), Atherstone (called the Ball Game) in Warwickshire, Sedgefield (called the Ball Game) in County Durham, and St Columb Major (called Hurling the Silver Ball) in Cornwall.
Shrove Tuesday was once known as a ‘half-holiday’ in England. It started at 11:00am with the signalling of a church bell. On Pancake Day, pancake races are held in villages and towns across the United Kingdom. The tradition is said to have originated when a housewife from Olney 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.
Since 1950 the people of Liberal, Kansas, and Olney have held the “International Pancake Day” race between the two towns. The two towns’ competitors race along an agreed-upon measured course. The times of the two towns’ competitors are compared, to determine a winner overall. A similar race is held in North Somercotes of Lincolnshire in eastern England. Scarborough celebrates by closing the foreshore to all traffic, closing schools early, and inviting all to skip. Traditionally, long ropes were used from the nearby harbour. The town crier rings the pancake bell, situated on the corner of Westborough (Main Street) and Huntress Row. The children of the hamlet of Whitechapel, Lancashire keep alive a local tradition by visiting local households and asking “please a pancake”, to be rewarded with oranges or sweets. It is thought the tradition arose when farm workers visited the wealthier farm and manor owners to ask for pancakes or pancake fillings. In Finland and Sweden, the day is associated with the almond paste-filled semla pastry.