Seriously, who doesn’t love Pancake Day? An entire day devoted to buttery goodness where it’s not only acceptable, but actively encouraged that you eat tasty treats smeared with Nutella, drowned in Golden Syrup and sprinkled with sugar. Pancake day arguably my favourite holiday – keep your Valentines Day, away with Easter celebrations, we want the tasty treat that is Shrove Tuesday.
As an originally Catholic celebration used to mark the start of Lent, the UK’s celebration of Shrove Tuesday came about as a way of using up items including eggs, flour, sugar and milk that would traditionally be given up in the following 40 days. Because our way of doing it is so delicious, Pancake Day has been adopted by a number of other countries around the world including Canada, Australia and the USA, although we don’t seem to be able to agree on what a Pancake should look like!
Fastelavn – Denmark
Fastelavn is held seven weeks before Easter, in keeping with the last binge before Lent. This festival symbolically sought to welcome in good fortune for the crop year ahead by banishing a historical bad luck charm, the cat. Until the mid 19th century cats were sealed in barrels, which were then beaten with sticks until they splintered. As you can imagine, the lucky cats that escaped unscathed ran for the hills, and so took the bad luck with them. As a crazy cat lady, I’m a bit miffed about this so grateful that these days the Danes make do with pictures of cats or stuffed animals!
The barrels are filled with sweets, and the child who breaks the barrel is crowned King or Queen of the Cats. After the barrel breaking, it is onto the delicious Fastelavnsboller – a delicious cream filled bun used to celebrate the holiday. Lots of communities also choose to sing a special song, with highlights of this including: ‘Buns up, buns down, buns in my tummy, if I get no buns, I will make trouble’ – I know this feeling!
Mardi Gras and Candlemas – France
Mardi Gras literally translates as Fat Tuesday which I think is just fabulous. Originally a great celebration in the community as the day before the start of abstinence with Ash Wednesday, Fat Tuesday came from an old tradition of fattening a calf to be paraded and then slaughtered for the Mardi Gras feast. Pancakes, or crêpes were also eaten to use up milk and butter which had to be used before Lent began. New Orleans’ famous Mardi Gras parade is definitely a bucket list event, including characters such as the King of the Carnival, the Monarch of Merriment and the God of Revelry
Not to be done short, France also use Candlemas as an excuse to eat delicious crêpes! A popular French saying goes ‘eating crêpes on Candlemas Day will bring a year of happiness’ – that’s enough of an incentive for me! Candlemas Day falls exactly 40 days after Christmas to celebrate Jesus’ presentation at the temple. If crêpes are flipped and land flat, you’re sure to have good luck, and flipping with a coin in your hand ensures financial prosperity.
Maslenitsa – Russia
Maslenitsa is all about putting the super snowy Russian winters behind, and looking ahead to the Springtime. During this week-long celebration, meat is already forbidden traditionally, and so the ‘blini’ (a thin pancake) is also intended to use up luxury ingredients that would spoil over the fast. The community comes together to make a Lady Maslenitsa effigy, symbolic of winter. By the end of the week, the people come together and burn Lady Maslenitsa to signify the end of winter, and bury her ashes to fertilise the coming crops!
How do you top your pancakes? Vote below!