Carnival Tuesday is often characterized by masks, music and colourful floats on parade for various festivities organized for the day. Trinkets are popular in some parts of the world, while King Cakes symbolize the event in places such as New Orleans where Mardi Gras is celebrated. Shrove Tuesday in the United Kingdom is commonly known as Pancake Tuesday.
Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day is the last day before the period which Christians call Lent. This day is one of the moveable feasts in the church calendar and is related to the date on which Easter falls. Shrove Tuesday always falls 47 days before Easter Sunday, so the date varies from year to year and falls between 3 February and 9 March. In 2012, Pancake Day falls on 21 February.
The forty days (not counting Sundays) before Easter is known as Lent. Lent begins the day after Pancake Day. According to the Christian tradition, Lent commemorates the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness so observant Christians marked this event by fasting. People generally eat a lot and have fun the day before Lent begins. Shrove Tuesday is often referred to as Pancake Day because fats, which were generally prohibited during Lent, had to be used up. People would take eggs, fats and dairy products that they had left in their kitchens and use them to make delicious pancakes. In the old days there were many foods that Christians would not eat during Lent: such as meat and fish, fats, eggs, and milky foods. Nowadays people don’t fast but try to give up something like chocolate, sweets or smoking.
In the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland and several other countries around the world, Pancake Day is celebrated with fun, games, and of course a lot of eating. However, the most well known activity on this day is the Pancake Day race at Olney in Buckinghamshire, England which has been held since 1445. According to tradition, a woman heard the shriving bell being rang at the church but was still preparing her pancakes. The story says that as she didn’t want to be late to church she ran there in her apron, still clutching her frying pan. Little did she know that this would start a tradition that would be around for over 500 years!
The Olney pancake race is now world famous. Competitors have to be local housewives and they must wear an apron and a hat or scarf. They must run a designated path with a frying pan and end up at the church. Each woman has a frying pan containing a hot pancake and she must toss it at least three times during the race. The first woman to complete the course and arrive at the church, serve her pancake to the bell ringer, and be kissed by him, is the winner. She also receives a prayer book from the vicar. The current record is 63 seconds set in 1967.
Source_ Oxford editorial (www.oupe.es)