Accessibility links

Britain's Answer to Mardi Gras is a Pancake Race


Woman in a traditional British pancake race prior to Lent

Woman in a traditional British pancake race prior to Lent

Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the day many Christians around the world begin a traditional fast before Easter, this year for 46 days. Custom also has it that the days and weeks before Lent be given up to revelry and indulgence - the great Carnival on the streets of Rio de Janeiro, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, the famous masked balls of Venice and costume parties and parades elsewhere. In Britain the last day before Lent is celebrated by boisterous crowds dressed in costumes, who race down streets flipping pancakes.

Lent is a time for giving up things. And in Britain, Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent begins, is for cleaning out the fridge, mixing up your milk, butter, and eggs frying up a pancake, getting all dressed up, stepping out into the rain, and having a race.

Why do the British do it? Most don't really seem to know.

This team of racers has one idea. "I think it appeals to their slightly quirky nature. And, you know, everybody's got a bit of a sweet tooth," one team member said.

"Skinny Bean" has been coming to the race for 16 years, and he's got another idea. "It brings everybody together for no particular reason at all," he said.

In fact, Britons have been celebrating Pancake Day for more 500 years.

Legend has it that on Shrove Tuesday in 1445 a woman cooking pancakes in her kitchen lost track of the time.

When she heard the church bells ringing she ran to the church - still in her apron and holding her frying pan. And that's how Pancake Day began, and continues.

But with one difference: These participants don't seem to want to give anything up for Lent.

We asked Irishman Donald O'Kelly what he'll be giving up. "Lent? Oh yes… Lent. We're giving up… pancakes."

One thing everyone does seem to know is that Pancake Day is a time to indulge. And after 500 years, Britons don't look like they're about to forget that.

XS
SM
MD
LG