The history and mystery of Pancake Day

Pancake Day has creped up on us once again! We may still  be in lockdown, but there’s no excuse for missing out on the magic and meaning of this special occasion.

Why do we celebrate Pancake Day?

Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday, is the traditional feast day before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Anglo-Saxon Christians would go to be “shriven” (absolved from their sins) on Shrove Tuesday, and a bell, which came to be known as the Pancake Bell, was rung to call people to confession. It is still rung in some churches today.

Pancakes became a tradition as people typically cleared their pantries of eggs, fat and other luxury items before Lent – traditionally a period of fasting – began. Eggs were believed to represent creation, while flour represented the staff of life, salt represented wholesomeness and milk represented purity.

How is it celebrated today?

Most people buy the ingredients in specially these days, as Pancake Day has become a celebration in its own right. We may not be able to get involved in making the world’s largest pancake or hosting a large pancake race this year, but we can still enjoy the day at home with our families.

Traditional British pancakes are large and thin, often served with either lemon and sugar or with golden syrup. But there is no reason why you can’t play around with different shapes, sizes and toppings. Anything goes, from a meat feast to fresh fruit and ice cream. Be as creative as you can, and get the whole family involved! If you live alone, why not have a Zoom pancake evening with friends or family so you can share the experience together?

Stepping into Lent

During Lent, many Christians reflect on Jesus’ withdrawal into the desert just after his baptism and fasted for 40 days. A brave few attempt to follow his example by going without food for the full period, while others opt to give up luxury foods or habits, such as social media. The time is usually devoted to prayer and to focusing on self-discipline, looking ahead to the monumental sacrifice Jesus made at Easter, and his suffering leading up to that moment.

Christians also remember Noah and his family on the ark at this time, as it rained for 40 days and 40 nights. (They were actually on the ark filled with every kind of beast and bird for about a year, so thank God your lockdown experience hasn’t quite that stinky!) Many also remember the 40 years the Israelites lived in the desert for after escaping from Egypt. Again, this was a pretty tricky wilderness experience, so it’s good to reflect back on what they went through, and what lessons we can learn from the biblical accounts of these events.

Get flipping!

So, grab your frying pan, make up your mix, chop up your toppings and have a wonderfully pancakey evening! Then think about the things you might want to give up or take up during Lent, and most importantly of all, reflect on what Jesus achieved on the cross. Can you make Pancake Day into an opportunity to share his love with those around you?