When is Pancake Day 2023? Is it today, Shrove Tuesday 2023 traditions, how event is linked to Easter explained

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Shrove Tuesday is a key religious date in the run up to Lent and Easter for Christians, but the feast day has become a major foodie event in the UK

Pancake Day is the one time every year when we get our frying pans out of the cupboard and use them to throw food around the kitchen, all in the hope of creating delicious food.

The celebration has become all about eating sweet treats - if they make it back into your pan, of course. The combination of eggs, flour and milk topped with a drizzle of lemon and a generous sprinkling of sugar is an irresistible combination, but Pancake Day’s origins are actually rooted in religion - it being a key date in the Christian calendar.

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Also known as Shrove Tuesday, it fires the starting gun for the Easter season. The date traditionally marks the eve of Lent - a period when some people, whether or not they’re religious, give up culinary treats for almost five weeks.

The 2023 edition of Pancake Day is likely to be a slightly different affair in comparison to previous years given food prices have been rising for the past 12 months. At the same time, it will be one of the first Pancake Days that’s likely to feature imported eggs, which have become more common on supermarket shelves as a result of the ongoing bird flu crisis - free range eggs are also likely to be off the menu for some people in the UK.

So, is today Pancake Day 2023 - and where does the tradition of flipping pancakes come from? Here’s everything you need to know.

What is Pancake Day?

While it is all about pancakes these days, Pancake Day actually marks a Christian feast day known as Shrove Tuesday.

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The annual pancake race in Olney, Buckinghamshire has been taking place for centuries (image: Getty Images)The annual pancake race in Olney, Buckinghamshire has been taking place for centuries (image: Getty Images)
The annual pancake race in Olney, Buckinghamshire has been taking place for centuries (image: Getty Images) | Getty Images

The word ‘shrove’ is believed to derive from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘shrive’, which meant a person had gone to confession at a church and had been absolved - or cleared - of their sins. It’s the last day before Lent, which is a fasting period commemorating the 40 days of fasting Jesus underwent in the desert before Easter, as written in the Bible.

While Lent now sees people give up a luxury food item until Easter, it used to involve clearing out all the good fatty and sweet stuff from your home, including sugar, butter and eggs. Pope Gregory I is believed to have started this custom at some point around 600AD and pancakes were the ideal food creation to achieve this end.

It’s not known when pancakes first made an appearance on Shrove Tuesday. The first written record of a pancake in the UK comes from 1439 - although they are believed to have been eaten in other European countries for centuries before then.

What are Pancake Day traditions?

Aside from eating pancakes, Shrove Tuesday also has two other notable traditions in the UK: pancake races and football.

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Pancake racing typically involves people in fancy dress running down a street or through a local park flipping a  pancake in a pan. The most famous of these races takes place every year in Olney, Buckinghamshire.

It is thought to have originated in 1445 when a woman in the town heard the church bells ring for the Shrove Tuesday service while she was in the middle of cooking her pancakes. In a panic, she ended up running to the church clutching her frying pan. One of the other notable races takes place on the grounds of the Houses of Parliament, with politicians usually wearing chef’s hats and aprons when they take part.

Mob football matches still take place in some UK locations, with the annual 2-day game in Ashbourne, Derbyshire involving thousands of people (image: AFP/Getty Images)Mob football matches still take place in some UK locations, with the annual 2-day game in Ashbourne, Derbyshire involving thousands of people (image: AFP/Getty Images)
Mob football matches still take place in some UK locations, with the annual 2-day game in Ashbourne, Derbyshire involving thousands of people (image: AFP/Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

The Shrove Tuesday football match - otherwise known as ‘mob football’ - is another Pancake Day tradition. These games date back to the 12th century and can involve thousands of people.

The aim of the game is to get a ball from one end of a town or village to another. But don’t expect to see the silky skills you get in the Premier League - there are no rules and pretty much anything goes.

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Victorian highways legislation stopped most of these games from taking place, but the tradition lives on in a few places around the UK. The most famous mob football game is held in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, where the annual Royal Shrovetide Football Match is played over two days with goals that are three miles (almost 5km) apart.

New Orleans hosts massive Mardi Gras celebrations (image: Getty Images)New Orleans hosts massive Mardi Gras celebrations (image: Getty Images)
New Orleans hosts massive Mardi Gras celebrations (image: Getty Images) | Getty Images

Is Pancake Day celebrated in other countries?

Shrove Tuesday is known as Mardi Gras in other parts of the world - particularly those that are French-speaking or have French cultural heritage.

While these occasions also revolve around eating indulgent foods, they tend to have more of a carnival atmosphere - especially in the southern states of the USA. New Orleans in the US is well-known for its Mardi Gras celebrations, which involve parades, food and lots of alcohol.

When is Pancake Day 2023?

Pancake Day always falls 47 days before Easter Sunday, meaning it can fall on any Tuesday between 3 February and 9 March.

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In 2023, Shrove Tuesday will be making a return to the month of February having been claimed by March back in 2022. The event is happening today - Tuesday 21 February 2023.

The ingredients which go into a pancake had to be used up before the religious fasting period of Lent (image: Shutterstock)The ingredients which go into a pancake had to be used up before the religious fasting period of Lent (image: Shutterstock)
The ingredients which go into a pancake had to be used up before the religious fasting period of Lent (image: Shutterstock) | Shutterstock

Pancake recipes

Pancakes usually come in two varieties: European style (these tend to be thin and flat) or US style (thicker and fluffier). Here’s a quick and easy recipe for European pancakes:

  1. Put 100g of plain flour, 2 large eggs, 300ml of milk, 1 tablespoons of sunflower or vegetable oil and a pinch of salt into a bowl or large jug, and then whisk until you have a smooth batter.
  2. Grease a pan and place it over a medium heat.
  3. When it gets hot, pour in enough batter so you can spread it around the base of the pan.
  4. After about 45-seconds when the down side has turned golden, flip your pancake to fry the other side until it too is crisp and browned.

A top tip is to keep your oven on a low heat setting so you can keep your cooked pancakes warm whilst you prepare a batch. And don’t forget to pair them with lemon juice, chocolate or whatever else works for you.

For American style pancakes, you want to do the same process but add two tablespoons of melted butter and caster sugar - as well as a teaspoon of baking powder - to your batter. This will make it thicker when you pour the mixture into a pan and the pancakes will rise as they cook.

Before you tuck in, be sure to top your pancake with lots of maple syrup. If you want to make it even more filthy, add bacon (or a plant-based alternative)

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