We look forward to whipping up our favourite pancake recipes every year, but when is Pancake Day 2023 - and why do we celebrate Shrove Tuesday?
Pancake Day has to be one of our favourite holidays. Whether you stick to a classic easypancake recipe (opens in new tab)with just sugar and a squeeze of lemon or enjoyAmerican pancakes (opens in new tab) smothered in chocolate, we're all hunting for the best pancake fillings (opens in new tab) and toppings in the lead up to the big day.
But while we all seem to love eating pancakes on this particular day, have you ever wondered why we celebrate Pancake Day - also known as Shrove Tuesday - and where the tradition comes from? We explain the story behind the day, so keep reading to find out when is Pancake Day in 2023 and why we celebrate it...
When is Pancake Day 2023?
Pancake Day 2023 falls on Tuesday 21st February. Interestingly, though the date of Pancake Day changes every year, it is always 47 days before Easter Sunday. This year, Easter Sunday is on April 9 - and this iscalculated around the first full moon that follows the spring equinox in March.
In addition, Pancake Day - traditionally known as Shrove Tuesday - is on a Tuesday every year, as the name suggests. A different way to work out the date is to remember that it immediately precedes Ash Wednesday – another Christian celebration that signals the beginning of Lent.
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Why do we celebrate Shrove Tuesday?
The origins of Pancake Day, or as it is traditionally known, Shrove Tuesday, are rooted in Christian religion. Shrove Tuesday is a day of feasting before the 40-day fast of Lent, which begins a day later, on Ash Wednesday.
Like Easter, the date can change year to year because it’s calculated by the lunar calendar. However, it always falls between 3 Feb and 9 March and will be 47 days before Easter Sunday.
The meaning behind Pancake Day's original name, Shrove Tuesday, comes from the religious tradition of going to confession to be absolved from sin ahead of the 40-day fast of Lent. 'Shrove' in Shrove Tuesday, comes from the word 'shrive' - defined in Collins English dictionary (opens in new tab) as: "to hear the confession of (a penitent)" or "toconfessone'ssinsto apriest in order to obtain sacramental forgiveness."
Shrove Tuesday became the name for the traditional day of confession before Lent, which is the season in the Christian calendar that remembers the Bible story of Jesus’ 40-day journey through the desert. It’s often a time when Christians and non-Christians alike give up a particular treat or bad habit 'for Lent'.
Traditionally, Christians would abstain from eating luxury foods, which included sugar as well as products that go off quickly - like eggs, fat and milk. To make sure these food were used up before lent began, they were mixed with flour (a cheap ingredient) to make pancakes. Cost-effective and tasty – what could be better?
Why are pancakes eaten on Shrove Tuesday?
Although these days people give up all kinds of things for Lent, traditionally it was meat and dairy that were forbidden for 40 days. This meant that Shrove Tuesday was traditionally the last opportunity to use up eggs and fats. Hello pancakes! The perfect way of using up these ingredients.
Eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday was a practical choice before it became an annual tradition and tasty treat.
We’ve actually been eating pancakes for thousands of years – they’re made all over the world using different local ingredients. These days pancakes can be topped with anything from savoury pancakes (opens in new tab) with meat to indulgent double chocolate chip pancakes (opens in new tab).
Far from the comfort food recipes (opens in new tab) we like to try today, the ancient Greeks and Romans liked a simple version of pancakes for breakfast (opens in new tab).
They made pancakes using just wheat flour mixed with water and a pinch of salt, then fried in olive oil. Typically they would be topped with honey, and sesame seeds or dates.
Why do we have Pancake Day races?
While the reason we eat pancakes on Pancake Day has a fairly clear historical roots, the origin of pancake races is less clear. However, one of the best-known Pancake Day races in the country, in Olney, Buckinghamshire, is said to have been inspired by something that happened in 1445, when a woman of Olney heard the shriving bell while she was making pancakes and ran to the church in her apron, still clutching her frying pan.
In honour of this tale, women compete in aprons and scarves in the Olney pancake race to this day.
Shrove Tuesday being a day of general merriment, other traditions have sprung up. In Scarborough, Yorkshire, people take to skipping on the promenade. Long ropes are stretched across the road with ten or more people skipping on one rope. The origins of this custom is not known but skipping was once a magical game, associated with the sowing and spouting of seeds.
And Shrove Tuesday football matches, that date back as far as the 12th century, still take place in Ashbourne in Derbyshire, Alnwick in Northumberland, Atherstone in Warwickshire, Sedgefield in County Durham and St Columb Major in Cornwall.
Do other countries celebrate Pancake Day?
Pancake Day is celebrated in many countries around the world, especially in English speaking countries such as Ireland, Australia and Canada. Other countries also celebrate the day, but have different names for it.
- France: Known as Mardi Gras (which translated to 'Fat Tuesday'), the name relates to eating fatty foods before giving them up before lent.
- Spain: Día de la Tortilla ('Omelette Day') sees people in Spain celebrate by eating Spanish omelette, or tortilla, instead of pancakes.
- Madeira, Portugal: Terça-feira Gorda, as it's called on the island of Madeira, is celebratedby eating malasadas. These are deep fried balls of dough coated with sugar - similar to donuts.
- Scandinavia: Shrove Tuesday is celebrated in countries such as Sweden, Finland, and Norway with Semla (or fastelavnsboller), which is a sweet bun filed with almond paste and cream.
What do you need to make pancakes? Simple pancake recipe:
- 60g plain flour
- Pinch of salt
- 1 medium egg
- 175ml of milk
- Oil or butter for frying
Watch our classic pancake video:
These are just the basic ingredients, however. It's not how everyone likes their pancakes, as scotch pancakes (opens in new tab) and American pancakes (opens in new tab) are just two of the other types that are popular in the UK. These are a little thicker, often come covered in various toppings and create that classic pancake stack look when you pile them up.
Gluten free pancakes (opens in new tab) are also another great choice for anyone with food intolerances as they use specialist ingredients, like coconut flour (opens in new tab). While vegan options, such as the Hairy Bikers' vegan pancakes (opens in new tab), are becoming more popular every year. These don't use any eggs or milk but that doesn't mean you have to compromise on toppings, as you can make a whole number of exciting pancake recipes vegan. Our favourites are the cinnamon swirl vegan pancakes (opens in new tab) and vegan salted caramel pancakes.
There are also options for those looking to make healthy pancakes, with vegan protein pancakes another popular option. 2-ingredient banana pancakes (opens in new tab) are ideal for anyone watching their weight and you can even make pancakes with avocado (opens in new tab), for a special brunch treat.
So whatever you fancy this Shrove Tuesday, there really are recipes for everyone to celebrate the meaning of Pancake Day.
Did you know these pancake facts?
- The world’s largest pancake weighed three tonnes – as much as a hippo! It was made in 1994 in Rochdale, Greater Manchester and took hours to cook. It measured 49 ft and 3 in long. That's the same size as a double decker bus, the residents of Rochdale must have been hungry! It was eventually cut into 15,000 pieces, which were sold to raise money for local charities (though apparently it wasn’t very tasty).
- The tallest stack of pancakes recorded is 101.8 cm (3 ft 4 in). It was made by Center Parcs Sherwood Forest, in Rufford last year. James Haywood and Dave Nicholls made and stacked a total of 213 pancakes!
- Smaller is certainly better for flipping, though you’d be hard pushed to bean Dean Gould from Suffolk whose official record is 399 flips in 2 minutes (off the record, he says he’s managed 424!).
- The highest pancake flip ever recorded was 9.47 metres in 2010 – well done to American Dominic Cuzzacrea.
- The record for the most people tossing pancakes at the same time is 890. It was achieved at an event organised by the University of Sheffield (UK) in 2012. Over 1,500 people signed up for the event.
Happy Pancake Day!
Video of the Week:
What is the reason behind Shrove Tuesday? ›
Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday, is the traditional feast day before the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday. Lent – the 40 days leading up to Easter – was traditionally a time of fasting and on Shrove Tuesday, Anglo-Saxon Christians went to confession and were “shriven” (absolved from their sins).Why do we make pancakes on Shrove Tuesday? ›
Pancakes are associated with Shrove Tuesday, the day preceding Lent, because they are a way to use up rich foods such as eggs, milk, and sugar, before the fasting season of the 40 days of Lent.What is the difference between Pancake Day and Shrove Tuesday? ›
Shrove Tuesday, also known as Pancake Day, is the traditional feast day before the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday. In 2023, Pancake Day in the UK takes place on Tuesday 21 February.What day is national Pancake Day 2023? ›
NATIONAL PANCAKE DAY - February 21, 2023 - National Today.What does a shrove mean? ›
Shrove, derived from shrive, refers to the confession of sins as a preparation for Lent, a usual practice in Europe in the Middle Ages.Is Shrove Tuesday in the Bible? ›
There is no biblical mandate requiring Christians to observe Shrove Tuesday; it is a matter of personal conviction. However, concepts like confession (Prov. 28:13; James 5:16; 1 John 1:9) and feasting and celebration (Eccl. 3:13; Rom.