Here’s why we traditionally call Pancake Day ‘Shrove Tuesday’

Are you excited for pancake day? (Photo: Shutterstock)

A popular day across the UK, Shrove Tuesday gives us the perfect excuse to eat lots of delicious pancakes.

But where does the term ‘Shrove Tuesday’ actually come from, and what’s the history behind it? These are the answers to all of your questions about Pancake Day which takes place on Tuesday 25 February 2020.

What is Shrove Tuesday?

Shrove Tuesday is the day in February or March that immediately precedes Ash Wednesday, also known as the first day of Lent in Christianity.

The date can vary from year to year, but falls between 3 February at the earliest and 9 March at the latest.

The expression ‘Shrove Tuesday’ is derived from the old middle English word ‘shriven’, which referred to going to confession to repent for the things you have done wrong. Because Lent always starts on a Wednesday, people would go to confession the day before.

This became known as Shriven Tuesday, which then evolved into Shrove Tuesday.

Why do we eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday

Shrove Tuesday comes from the old English custom of using up all the leftover fattening ingredients in the house before Lent, so that people were ready to fast. The ingredients that people tended to have in their houses were eggs and milk.

To ensure that these ingredients didn’t go to waste, pancakes became the perfect way of using up them up, by simply mixing them with some flour.

What is Lent?

Lent is the period of 40 days where Christians remember the events that lead up to and culminated in the death of Jesus Christ.

Christians will observe Lent in a variety of different ways, with those from more orthodox and traditional beliefs choosing to fast strictly, abstaining from meat, fish, eggs and fats until Easter Sunday.

More commonly, others will choose to give up one more luxurious item, like chocolate.

Pancake Day traditions

In the UK, as well as making and enjoying pancakes, others will also enter themselves into the time honoured tradition of the pancake race.

The race is a relay race, with runners having to run whilst simultaneously having to flat a pancake in a frying pan before handing the pan off to their teammates.

The concept of the race is thought to have originated in the town of Olney, Buckinghamshire in 1445.

How to make pancakes

If you’re thinking about making your own pancakes this Pancake Day, then you might be overwhelmed with the huge amount of recipes available online for loads of variations on the classic treat.

This is a basic, easy recipe from BBC Good Food to get you started.

You’ll need 100g of plain flour, two large eggs, 300ml of milk, one tablespoon of sunflower or vegetable oil, plus a little extra for frying, and any topping you desire - the classic option is lemon and sugar, but you can customise to your own taste.

The recipe goes as follows:

Mix together your flour, eggs, milk and oil along with a pinch of salt in a large bowl or jug until it makes a smooth batterFor the best results, set aside for 30 minutes to rest, but you can skip this step if you wantGet out a flat frying pan and set it over a medium heat, carefully wiping it with some oiled kitchen paperWhen the pan has heated up, pour some of your batter in and swirl it around to make a smooth layerCook for about one minute on each side until goldenServe your pancakes with whatever toppings you like and enjoy