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A Guide to Pancake Day

Taking a look at what Pancake Day means across the globe

Traditionally, Shrove Tuesday was a day for Christians to ‘shrive’ for their sins – that is to ask for forgiveness on the day before the start of Lent. This can be dated back to around a thousand years ago, whereas the actual tradition of eating pancakes started around the 16th century. Although the idea behind making pancakes is to use up rich and fatty foods before Lent, some believe they were originally made as part of a Pagan ritual, where the main ingredients represent the most important parts of the faith.

While the tradition does have religious origins, it is celebrated today by most people simply just to eat pancakes. Perhaps the most important part of the celebration in modern times is what topping to have on your pancake. In Britain the most popular topping is the classic lemon and sugar on a light and thin pancake. In America, syrup is a common choice on a thick and fluffy pancake, sometimes with the addition of bacon. Perhaps you’ll choose a savoury topping, like the Korean kimchi pancake, a thin pancake topped with meat, fish or vegetables. Savoury toppings are becoming a much more common choice, and increasingly popular sweet toppings include Nutella, strawberries and cream or other fruits. Despite being called ‘pancake’ day, some countries have traditions that don’t involve pancakes at all. For example, Iceland chooses to eat salted meat and peas whilst people in Finland and Estonia eat vegetable soup with various pastry treats and the children usually go sledding. In Germany, the day is called ‘Fastnachtsdienstag’ and they celebrate with fancy dress, similar to Spain and South America where they celebrate with extravagant carnival processions, accompanied by a wide array of foods and drink. In Spain, it is known as ‘El Dia de la tortilla’ and their main dish is omelette with pork.

Today, Shrove Tuesday is far detached from its origins and few people take notice of the religious meaning behind it. So, with the day essentially being simply for pancakes, what will you choose? There are many things to consider, like what type of pancake you’ll make, sweet or savoury? Or will you choose to try other traditions, avoiding pancakes all together? With Pancake Day just around the corner, it’s time to put some thought into how you’ll be celebrating.

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