Pancake Day falls on 12 February in 2013.
Its formal name is Shrove Tuesday, and it represents the day on which Christian people traditionally went to church to be “shriven” or “shrove” (absolved) of their sins before the 40-day fast of Lent. It was also the last opportunity to use up foodstuffs that were restricted during the Lenten fast, such as meat, dairy products and eggs. As a result it became something of a celebratory day – though the festivities in the largely Protestant United Kingdom pale in comparison with the famously riotous celebrations in Catholic areas such as Rio de Janeiro’s Carnaval, New Orleans’s Mardi Gras and even Munich’s Fasching.
Nevertheless, there are still some places in the UK where traditional ways of marking the day survive. Besides the widespread pancake races – which date back to the fifteenth century in the case of the race in Olney in Buckinghamshire – there are a number of “football” matches which more or less resemble an extreme version of rugby, and there’s skipping on the beach road at Scarborough.
But for most Britons in the UK it’s time to get out the flour, eggs, milk and sugar and buy in a couple of lemons…