Yes, Pancake Day is upon us once again!
Read on to find out about the origins of the day also commonly know in Britain as Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Tuesday. We’ll begin with some fun facts…
According to the British Egg Information Service (we didn’t know there was such a thing, but feel reassured knowing that there is, should we need it), Brits will eat a whopping 52 million eggs on this day. That’s 22 million more than an average day!
And did you know that the world record for pancake flipping is 349 flips in two minutes? Wow, we can barely manage one…
Minds officially blown by such statistics, let’s take a look at the whys and wherefores of this waist-expanding day.
Origins of Pancake Day
Why is it that we eat pancakes in particular on Shrove Tuesday, and where did this custom come from? And why (since we’re always interested in the origin of words here at Creative), is it called Shrove Tuesday?
Well, to answer the last question first, “Shrove” is the past tense of the English verb “to shrive”, which means “to obtain absolution from sin by confessing and doing penance”.
Shrove Tuesday is the day before Lent starts (or “Shrovetide”, as it’s sometimes known in England). It’s a period of fasting observed by many Christian denominations, and the day before is the last time to eat rich, fatty foods before the 40-day fast begins. Traditionally, this would mean eating up the fat, milk, eggs and sweet things that people had in their kitchen cupboards, and hence pancakes were on the menu…
Flipping good marketing
Lemon and sugar is a popular pancake topping in the UK, and for many people in this country, pancakes wouldn’t be pancakes without Jif Lemon. If you’re unfamiliar with Jif Lemon, this is lemon juice sold in bottles, but also available in a distinctive “plastic lemon” packaging (far more fun to operate).
The advertising campaign for Jif Lemon Juice by Unilever has been so successful that it has even got some people referring to pancake day as ‘Jif Lemon Day’. That’s some good marketing efforts!
Pancake Day Races
In the UK, Pancake Day races are traditional. Participants, often in fancy dress, race each other with a frying pan in hand containing a cooked pancake, flipping the pancake as they go. Whoever gets to the finishing line first wins the race. Here in London, several Pancake Day races take place every year. Lots of fun is had by all, and money raised for good causes. There is even an annual charity Parliamentary Pancake Day Race in the city, where politicians compete with journalists.
Pancake Day around the world and in different languages
Shrove Tuesday is also known as Pancake Day in Ireland, Canada and Australia, where people will also be enjoying a pancake or two (or three…)
And in lots of other countries, people mark the day before the fast in different ways.
As the Brazilian, Spanish and Italian members of our team at Creative HQ will attest, the beginning of Lent is known in these countries as “Carnival” (from the Latin “carnelevare”, which literally means “to remove meat”. Traditionally, Christians would abstain from eating meat or poultry on some days in Lent). The most famous of these holidays is Carnival in Brazil, of course, where there are street processions and fancy dress.
Similar festivities are held in the US, where the occasion is known as “Mardi Gras” (literally, “Fat Tuesday”, in French). In Poland, on the other hand, it’s “Fat Thursday” (tłusty czwartek) that is celebrated, and on the Thursday before Lent, traditional Polish doughnut-like cakes called “pączki” are eaten.
All in all, whether it’s pancake-based or otherwise, there is generally quite a lot of overindulging taking place around the world at this time, we think you’ll agree.
And the Creative team will no doubt all be partaking in a pancake, too (we’ve got the Jif Lemon lined up ready). Not sure we’ll be able to beat that impressive world record for pancake flipping, though. But we’ll get practicing – so maybe next year?