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Shrove Tuesday - A brief history

February 26th 2014
By: jon.acquarone

Shrove Tuesday is 47 days before Easter Sunday and usually falls between early February and early March.  This year it’s the 4th of March and precedes Ash Wednesday.  It’s when we can use up all our fats, butter and eggs before they are forbidden during the period of Lent.  Pancakes require all of these things and are quick and easy to cook.
 
The word Shrove comes from the old word 'shrive' which means to confessIn the Middle Ages, people would confess their sins so that they were forgiven before the Lent period began.  Many of us choose to honour this period of abstinence and give up something like alcohol, chocolate or cakes.
 
In France it’s called Mardi Gras – which means Fat Tuesday, and in Iceland is called Sprengidagur which means Bursting Day!
 
1445 is believed to be the year when Pancake races began – a lady had lost track of time whilst cooking pancakes in the kitchen on Shrove Tuesday.  When the church bells rang, calling the congregation to confession, she is alleged to have run out of her house all the way to church with the frying pan still in her hand!
 
This tradition is maintained in Olney in Buckinghamshire – there is a 415 yard course for participants to run along.  The rules are these – the contestants have to toss their pancakes at the start and the finish lines, whilst wearing an apron and a scarf.  A church service follows the race.