Shropshire Star

Pancake Day: The history behind Shrove Tuesday and what's on in Shropshire this year

Each year, families across the globe mark their calendars for one delectable event: Pancake Day.

Cousins Olivia Lee, 16 and Lauren Simcock,12 from Shrewsbury enjoying a pancake at Chez Sophie in Shrewsbury

Also known as Shrove Tuesday, this culinary celebration holds a rich history that stretches back centuries.

The roots of Pancake Day can be traced back to medieval Europe, where it emerged as part of the Christian liturgical calendar - or 'church year'.

The day before Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent, Pancake Day holds significance as the last opportunity for indulgence before the solemn period of fasting and abstinence leading up to Easter.

The term 'Shrove Tuesday' derives from the word 'shrive', meaning to confess one's sins and seek absolution. On this day, Christians would traditionally attend confession and be 'shriven' of their sins in preparation for the Lenten season.

As a final act of indulgence before the austerity of Lent, families would feast on rich and decadent foods, with pancakes - being full of fats, eggs and milk - becoming a staple of the celebration.

In medieval times, ingredients such as eggs, milk, and sugar were considered luxury items, and households sought to use them before the period of fasting began.

Pancakes, made from these perishable ingredients, provided a delicious way to clear out the pantry while satisfying the appetite for something indulgent.

As Pancake Day spread throughout Europe, variations of the tradition emerged, each with their regional customs and culinary twists.

In England, pancake races became a popular tradition, with participants flipping pancakes while racing through the streets.

Legend has it that the tradition originated in the town of Olney in Buckinghamshire, where a woman cooking pancakes heard the church bells ringing for the Shrove Tuesday service and rushed to attend, still clutching her frying pan.

Beyond its religious and cultural significance, Pancake Day also marks the transition from winter to spring, aligning with other pre-Christian festivals celebrating the arrival of longer days and the promise of new growth.

From classic recipes handed down through generations to innovative twists incorporating global flavours, the humble pancake remains a beloved symbol of indulgence, community, and the joy of simple pleasures.

So whether you prefer yours with lemon and honey, a drizzle of syrup or a dollop of Nutella, one thing is certain: Pancake Day is a celebration worth flipping for.

In Shropshire, at least two events will mark the delicious day.

The inaugural ‘Great Wellington Pancake Race’ will be staged in Wellington town centre on February 13 in what hopes to become an annual tradition.

Pancake-related fun will begin in the town square at 12.45pm.

Visitors have been invited along to take part in Blists Hill's annual pancake-flipping contest.

The competitor who can toss their pancake the most times in a minute without dropping it will be crowned the museum's Champion Flipper 2024.

The celebrations take place from 10am to 4pm, booking is not necessary and standard entry fees apply.

If you're in need of flavour inspiration, over in Shrewsbury, Chez Sophie is open every day this week from 11am to 4pm - serving up their impressive collection of over 30 crepe topping combinations.