The Origins of Pancake Day

February 12, 2018

The Origins of Pancake Day

The only day of the year when food is not only on plates but also falling from the ceiling is upon us. Yes, you’ve guessed it, it’s finally Pancake Day.

By now your cupboards should be filled up with lemon and sugar (and perhaps a cheeky bit of chocolate sauce) because it is expected of us to eat our weight in pancakes, and we shall not disappoint.

As great as this day might be, did you ever wonder where it came from?

Allow us to take you back to the origins of Pancake Day and introduce you to the proper way of celebrating it.

I. Shrove Tuesday : Christian Origins and Traditions


Following Christian tradition, Pancake Day was originally (and still is) called Shrove Tuesday and takes place exactly 47 days before Easter (always falling in between the 3rd January and the 9th March), this year it being on the 13th February.

Shrove Tuesday comes from 'shrive', which means absolution. Going back to the beginning of this tradition, it was the day when Christians would go to church and confess their sins. Legend has it that the priest would ring a bell, called the 'pancake bell', to call sinners to confession.

But of course, that doesn't explain why we stuff our faces with actual pancakes.

Well, Shrove Tuesday is actually the day before Ash Wednesday which marks the start of Lent. The concept was to eat all the rich foods (such as eggs, milk and sugar) available in the house before the start of the fasting and restriction period. 

Funny fact, in many countries it is actually called 'Mardi Gras', translating to Fat Tuesday from French. 

More precisely, it said that the components of a pancake represent the four pillars of the Christian faith: eggs for creation, milk for purity, flour for the staff of life, salt for wholesomeness.

II. Some Very Particular Traditions and Celebrations

First of all, it is common knowledge that a pancake has to be flipped in order to be a legitimate pancake. This is a tradition that is nearly as old as the pancake itself, which has been recorded in cookbooks from the 15th century. According to Pasquil’s Palin words from 1619 “(…) Every man and maide doe take tier turn, And tosse their Pancakes up for feare they burne.”

One way we British celebrate Pancake Day, is of course with our famous pancake races.


The rules are simple: dress up, run with a frying pan and flip the pancake at least 3 times during the race. The person who arrives first wins.

According to history, it was a woman from Olney who started the tradition back in 1445. Indeed, whilst she was flipping her pancakes, the woman suddenly heard the shriving bell, thus ran to the church in her apron with her frying pan still in hand. 

Now, the Olney’s pancake race is the most famous in the world.

Don't fancy cooking your own Pancakes? Don't worry, we know the best places to eat Pancakes in Camden.

Head to our friends at Blues Kitchen Camden for an all day American affair (think fluffy American pancakes, bacon and a ton of maple syrup).

Or go continental with the French folks of Crêpes à la Carte.

And if you fancy going a little further afield, head to Bourne and Hollingsworth for a boozy vintage affair as part of their bottomless brunch.

Happy Pancake Day!

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