Mardi Gras: Happy Pancake Day!

Mardi Gras: Happy Pancake Day!
Olney Pancake Day Race

Olney Pancake Day Race Image credit: Olneyonline

Today is a most delicious day of the year, Pancake Day.

Pancake Day is also known as  Shrove Tuesday. The meaning of shrove derives from “confess.” The day marks the last day of celebration before 40 days of “shriving” – or absolution for one’s sins – during the Christian festival of Lent.

It was common to host a family feast beginning with luxurious or “fatty” foods not eaten during the weeks of Lent. Sugar, milk and eggs were good ingredients and – combined – formed yummy pancakes.

Worldwide family traditions include:

UK: A pancake race is held. In Olney (Buckinghamshire), since 1445, women have raced 415 yards flipping pancakes in frying pans. The race may have originated when a housewife ran to church carrying her frying pan with pancakes.

US: Today is Mardi Gras (French, Fat Tuesday), referring to the fatty foods eaten before Lent. The first American Mardi Gras may have been held March 3, 1699, when French explorers Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville landed in today’s Louisiana, and held a small celebration. The first recorded New Orleans Mardi Gras parade took place February 24, 1857, hosted by a secret society called the Mitsick Krewe of Comus. Traditional celebrations include floats, marching bands and masquerade balls.

Italy: This is the birthplace of Carnival celebrations with origins in the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia. For centuries, Venetians celebrated Carnevale, also known as Martedi Grasso (Fat Tuesday) with week-long events, including the famous masquerade balls.

Brazil: The largest annual carnival  in the world takes place in Brazil. The six-day festival is held from Friday to Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of Lent. Rio de Janeiro hosts the largest parade with street parties, samba music and local folklore celebrations.

Germany: The famous Karneval or Fasching parades take place in Cologne, Mainz and Dusseldorf on Shrove Tuesday. Fried donuts (fasnacht) are a tradition.

How does your family celebrate? Do you have special pancake recipes or other traditional foods you or your ancestors ate? Let us know in the comments below and on Facebook, or email your stories to