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The History of Pancake Day

coconut passionfruit pancakes

Pancake Day is  one of the few food holidays that has its roots firmly planted in tradition and was not simply named on a whim to celebrate the tasty breakfast food. Pancake Day is better known as Fat Tuesday, or Shrove Tuesday. Shrove Tuesday is the day before Lent, the period of fasting and prayer that preceeds Easter in many Christian traditions. The tradition of eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday began as a way to use up ingredients including butter, milk and eggs that were not supposed to be eaten and would go bad during the period of Lent. Pancakes, particularly thin and buttery crepes, were a great way to use up these ingredients in one easy and indulgent dish. The tradition of eating pancakes is accessible to many regardless of religion, and the idea of a Pancake Day gets a little more popular every year.

These days many people opt to celebrate Pancake Day by eating pancakes for breakfast, lunch or dinner and the celebrations are decidedly non-religious for most. For instance, in the towns of Liberal, Kansas and Olney, England hold a pancake-flipping race, where women run down the streets of each town flipping pancakes, in a tradition that actually dates back hundreds of years. I personally just use Pancake Day as an excuse to eat pancakes for dinner and to try out a few new recipes, like the Passion Fruit Coconut Pancakes pictured above or a batch of Bacon Pancakes! Savory crepes are even a nice way to celebrate Pancake Day. You can eat pancakes any day of the year, of course, but having a holiday spring up around them just makes things seem a little more festive!

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  • Megan
    March 8, 2011

    thank you for this post! No one in my office had ever heard of eating pancakes on Fat Tuesday or what Fat Tuesday even was! I was shocked! However, I didn’t know why pancakes specically. Anyway, I was just able to read this aloud to them and now I don’t look like a crazy person. so thanks!

  • Adam
    March 8, 2011

    When I was a kid I always remember coming home on Fat Tuesday to my Mom in the kitchen preparing all sorts of pancakes from standard to potato. I love pancakes with a passion, but I stink at making them myself :). To compensate for this my favourite restaurant is actually a little pancake place that I try to get to (at least) once a month :).

  • Love the history lesson. Oh, and pancakes. Love me some pancakes.

  • Heli
    March 10, 2011

    In Finland we traditionally eat something called “laskiaispulla” on the same day.

    It’s basically a cardammon flavored sweet bread with jam, (or almond paste) and whipped cream filling. I guess the idea is the same 🙂

  • Susan B
    January 20, 2012

    Liberal, KS is my hometown! I have such wonderful memories of Pancake Day! I was in the Pancake Day Parade for several years. Hometown festivals are great aren’t they? Thanks so much for this post–it is so rare for anyone to give such a tribute to the wonderful Pancake! Love your blog Nicole, you are so talented!!!

  • Dan Lacey
    February 21, 2012

    Thanks for remembering.

    All the best,
    Dan Lacey
    The Painter of Pancakes

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