Last week I talked about the celebrations that take place before the fasting for Lent, which include Carnival and Mardi Gras.
One fun occasion is Pancake Day in Great Britain, which takes place on Shrove Tuesday. Shrove Tuesday is the day before the start of Lent. The word “Shrove” comes from “shriving”, which means confessing your sins. Originally, people went to church on this day to confess their sins before Lent. The church bell would ring as a call for people to go shriving.
The idea of Pancake Day came next, its purpose was to use up the milk and eggs in the house before Lent, during which time they weren’t supposed to be eaten.
In one town in Britain called Olney, Pancake Races began.
The legend is that these races started back in 1445. A woman was making pancakes and she heard the bell to go to church to shrive. She was in such a rush that she forgot to put down her frying pan. She ran all the way to church with it! Now women of Olney follow the tradition that began way back then, and they race with a frying pan with a pancake in it. One rule is that they have to flip the pancake at least three times during the race.
Today in some communities the church bells ring on Shrove Tuesday, not to remind the people to go to church to confess, rather, to remind them to make pancakes!
Pancake Day is also celebrated in the US, in the town of Liberal, Kansas. Liberal was always known for being “flat as a pancake”. I suppose it was that reputation that inspired the town to contact Olney, in England, to suggest a competition. Since then, the two towns have kept track of their respective Pancake Races to see who makes the better time.
These days, the festivities have grown to a three day “Pancake Festival” in Liberal, including pancake eating and flipping competitions and many other activities. (Liberal sounds like a fun place to live. It also hosts the annual “Oz Fest” on October 14 -15, as a tribute to Dorothy and her longing to return to Kansas in The Wizard of Oz.)
Here are some songs for Pancake Day…
Pancake Day is a very happy day,
If we don’t have a holiday we’ll all run away,
Where shall we run, up High Lane,
And here comes the teacher with a great big cane!
But hark, I hear the pancake bell,
And fritters make a gallant smell.
The cooks are baking, frying, boiling,
Stewing, mincing, cutting, broiling,
Carving, gourmandizing, roasting,
Carbonading*, cracking, slashing, toasting.
(*Carbonading is an obsolete word. I gather it meant roasting on a fire or broiling, with the sense of scorching or charbroiling the food.)
Here are some nursery rhymes for Pancake Day…
Toss the pancakes, toss the pancakes,
Turn the pancakes over!
Pancake Day, Pancake Day,
Don’t let the pancakes frizzle away!
Watch us put them quickly in the pan now,
Toss them up and catch it if you can now.
Tippety, tippety tin,
Give me a pancake and I will come in.
Tippety, tippety toe,
Give me a pancake and I will go.
Nicky, nicky, nan,
Give me a pancake and then I’ll be gone.
But if you give me none,
I’ll throw a great stone
And down your door shall come.
Here are some proverbs for Shrovetide (the week of merriment before Lent) and Shrove Tuesday…
Fit as a pancake for Shrove Tuesday.
If it thunder upon Shrove Tuesday
It fortelleth winde, store of fruit, and plenty.
Rejoice Shrovetide today,
For tomorrow you’ll be ashes.
(This one is an echo of what the priest says on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, while he makes a cross on the persons forehead in ashes, “Remember man, for dust thou art, and to dust thou shall return.”)
So much as the sun shineth on Pancake Tuesday,
The like will shine every day in Lent.
Happy Pancake Day!
UPDATE: Here’s a Pancake Song by Christina Rossetti.
This artilce was posted on Friday, February 24th, 2006 at 8:23 pm and is filed under British Children's Songs, Children's Songs, Countries & Cultures, English, English Nursery Rhymes, English Proverbs, Holiday Songs, Holidays Around the World, Languages, Nursery Rhymes, Nursery Rhymes about Holidays, Nursery Rhymes about Pancake Day, Oz Fest, Pancake Day, Pancake Day Songs, Proverbs, Proverbs about Pancake Day, Proverbs about Shrove Tuesday, Rhymes by Theme, Shrove Tuesday, Shrovetide, USA, United Kingdom. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.