Participants in the annual Pancake Race in Olney, England, where the tradition of Shrove Tuesday is said to have started in 1445. Photo: Lestalorm.

Celebrate Shrove Tuesday with a pancake dinner

St. Alban's Anglican Church in Ashcroft is hosting a Shrove Tuesday dinner on February 13.

By Martina Duncan

In the cycles of the Christian year, we have completed the Advent and Christmas season and are now in the season of Epiphany (from the Greek word meaning “manifestation”); and St. Alban’s Anglican Church in Ashcroft will be marking the end of the season, and the beginning of Lent, with a pancake dinner on Shrove Tuesday.

Epiphany began as early as the fourth century in the Eastern Church, as a celebration that marks the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptiser, as well as the visit from the Magi (the three Wise Men), which is why it is also known as “Three Kings Day”.

It is commemorated on the 12th day of Christmas, and falls on January 6, marking the end of the Christmas season.

In Epiphany, we celebrate the embodiment of God in the person of Jesus, who is our example of how to restore our relationship with our Creator. The season of Epiphany ends on Ash Wednesday; but before Ash Wednesday comes Shrove Tuesday.

In some places Shrove Tuesday is called Mardi Gras, or carnival day, and is notable as it is the last day of “fat eating” or “gorging” before the fasting period of Lent begins. So whether you celebrate it as a carnival Mardi Gras day or as a Shrove Tuesday pancake supper, it is set aside as the day to use up your rich food items before Lent begins. There will be more about Lent another time… .

This year, Shrove Tuesday is observed on Tuesday, February 13. At St. Alban’s, we will be celebrating it in the customary way, which is to have a pancake supper (from 5 to 6:30 p.m.), complete with sausages, eggs, orange slices, special butters, syrups, and sauces. Admission is by donation, and everyone is invited to join in the celebration, whether or not you mark Shrove Tuesday as a special day.

Why pancakes? The tradition is said to have originated in 1445, when a housewife from Olney, Buckinghamshire, England was so busy making pancakes that she forgot the time until she heard the church bells ringing for the service. She raced out of the house to the church while still carrying her frying pan and pancake, tossing it to prevent it from burning.

The pancake race remains a common celebration in the U.K., especially England. Participants with frying pans race through the streets tossing pancakes into the air and catching them in the pan while running.

The pancake race at Olney traditionally has women contestants who carry a frying pan and race over a 415-yard course to the finish line. The rules are strict: contestants must toss the pancake at the start and the finish and wear a scarf and apron. Some English towns celebrate with “mob football” games, a tradition which began in the 17th century.

Shrove Tuesday is exactly 47 days before Easter Sunday, and was once known as a “half-holiday” in Britain. The term “shrove” derives from the English word “shrive”, meaning absolve.

It was significant, as people wanted to enter the season of Lent after making “a special point of self-examination, of considering what wrongs they needed to repent, and what amendments of life or areas of spiritual growth they especially needed to ask God’s help in dealing with.”

Please plan to join us for a fabulous pancake supper on February 13!