Shrove Tuesday also known as Pancake day in Britain
Pancake day is the day before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. 'Shrove' - as in Shrove Tuesday - stems from old English word 'shrive', meaning 'confess all sins'. It is called Pancake Day because it is the day traditionally for eating pancakes as they were a way to use up any stocks of milk, butter and eggs which were forbidden during the abstinence of Lent. The earliest records of pancakes and pancake tossing appeared in the fifteenth century when the pancakes were a little thicker than the modern pancake; they would also often have added spices for a little decadence. It wasn’t until the eighteenth century and the influence of French cooking and their thin crepes that pancakes more as we know them now.
Pancake Customs in the UK and Ireland
‘Shroving’ was a custom in which children sang or recited poetry in exchange for food or money. ‘Lent Crocking’ was one of the many customs of the day when children would pass from house to house asking for pancakes. If they weren't given any, broken crockery would be thrown at the door!
Other customs and superstitions included the belief that the first three pancakes cooked were sacred. Each would be marked with a cross, then sprinkled with salt to ward off evil spirits, then set aside.
In Ireland, Irish girls were given an afternoon off to make their batter and the eldest, unmarried girl would toss the first pancake. Success meant she would be married within the year.
In Scotland, special oatcakes called Bannocks were made using oatmeal, eggs and salt and cooked on a griddle. A charm would be added to the dough and if an unmarried person found it, would be married within the year.
Wales also had their own customs where people would pass from door to door begging for flour, lard or butter. In some parts of Wales children would kick tin cans up and down the streets, believed to be commemorate the putting away the pots and pans for Lent.
Today, Pancake Races are a popular event throughout the UK.