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25th February Shrove Tuesday Who’s for Pancakes?

FEAST THEN FAST30th January 2020

as published in Great Yarmouth Parish Life

 

By Canon David Winter

Why do we have pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day, as we call it today? And what is Shrove Tuesday? And why do thousands of people feel it rewarding to race along a street somewhere tossing pancakes from their frying pans as they go?

Well, the answer to the first question is that it is the day before Lent begins and for well over a thousand years that has meant it was the last chance to enjoy meat, fat and other tasty dishes until Easter Day. The ‘Lent Fast’ was widely and strictly observed. The food in the larder wouldn’t keep for six weeks so it had to be eaten. With all these rich foods no wonder the French call it ‘Fatty Tuesday’ – Mardi Gras

So, what have pancake races got to do with all this solemnity? ‘Shrove’ is an old word for ‘forgiven’ and in those days to prepare for the rigours of Lent people would want to confess and seek forgiveness – not quite what you want at a party. The answer is quite simply enjoying yourself while you can! So, on Shrove Tuesday this year let’s have some fun and make it last as long as possible
SHROVE TUESDAYThe most convincing (and amusing) of the explanations of pancake races is of outwitting the Sexton who rang the curfew bell that marked the start of Lent. He was reluctant to do it while the race was unfinished. So, the revelry caused by dropped pancakes, postponed the inevitable

Since the Reformation it has not been so rigorously observed in Britain, but still people will resolve to ‘give up something for Lent’. Six weeks is about right as a duration and Sunday has always been exempt but make the most of those pancakes. They may well not reappear until April 12th!