Pancake Day explained – why we celebrate Shrove Tuesday

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Pancake Day 2021, also known as Shrove Tuesday, is finally here and the scent of lemon and sugar is already in the air.

Whether your preferences sway sweet or savoury, Pancake Day is a favourite in the UK, with the entire nation dusting off their recipe books in the pursuit of the perfect pancake.

The true chefs will be separated from the pretenders as millions of kitchens across the country will play host to the dreaded "flip", as budding pancake professionals aim to successfully flip the pancake within the width of the pan and trying not to sabotage the entire dish by dropping it on the floor.

Now, it's not like anyone needs a legitimate reason to spend the entire day eating pancakes, but why do we celebrate Shrove Tuesday? What does it mean?

Pancake Day

Pancake day, otherwise known as Shrove Tuesday, is the day before Ash Wednesday, the day that represents the beginning of Lent in the Christian calendar.

It was often tradition for those celebrating Lent to eat plenty of pancakes on this day as a means of getting rid of fatty foods prior to the 40-day fasting period of Lent.

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Nowadays, people tend to give up just one thing, whether it be junk food like chocolate or caffeinated drinks like coffee. However, many years ago it was more common for Christians to refrain from eating foods that fat, eggs, milk, and meat during Lent.

The idea of having to eat up all the fatty food in your home before lent gave rise to the term "Mardis Gras", a French phrase which translates roughly as 'Fat Tuesday.'

Why is it called Shrove Tuesday?

The word shrove, past tense of shrive, is defined as obtaining absolution for one’s sins, traditionally achieved through confession.

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Given how the first day of Lent always falls on a Wednesday, people would then go to confession the day prior, given that day the title "Shriven Tuesday", before later becoming Shrove Tuesday.

Why does the date of Pancake Day change every year?

Every year, Shrove Tuesday will fall on the seventh week before Easter, and its date changes depending on whenever Easter falls that year.

Easter is always celebrated on the most recent Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox in March.

Easter Sunday always falls on a day between March 22 and April 25 with Western Churches, while Eastern churches will celebrate the day at some point between April 4 and May 8.

In 2021, Western Easter will be celebrated on 12 April while Orthodox Easter falls on 19 April.

  • Pancake Day

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