Why do we eat pancakes on Pancake Day?

Why do we eat pancakes on Pancake Day?

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Waking up to a huge plate of pancakes is obviously welcome, whatever the time of year. As perhaps the best thing to happen to breakfast since bacon and black coffee, the slippery disks of batter are equally useful as a self-prescribed hangover cure or a romantic gesture. Sometimes, they can kill two birds with one mouthwatering stone. 

But, for all its beguiling, fluffy deliciousness, there is a mystery surrounding the dish. As with chocolate and giant rabbits, millions around the world are justifiably baffled by society’s decision to go pancake mad for one day in mid-February. Obviously, the annual scoffathon leaves very little cause for complaint. But it’s still curious that, in an age where breakfast options are more glorious than ever, we continue to dedicate an entire day to pancake eating. 

Peeling back the curtain covering pancake history, our reasons for crepe-mania become a little more clear. Almost all experts agree that the ritual relates to the Christian custom of Lent - a festival during which participants agree to absolve themselves of sin and seek spiritual growth. In practice, this meant giving up tasty things for 40 days. 

Check out this recipe for Baileys S'Mores Pancakes:

In medieval Christendom, this period of abstinence was proceeded by one day of unadulterated gluttony. Peasants would celebrate a “Fat Tuesday” by stuffing themselves with the most indulgent foods they could get their hands on. Lacking the wherewithal to sample a Krispy Kreme or KFC, they settled for the next best thing - a blend of milk, eggs and butter, cooked in a pan. It's a habit that we still haven't broken.

While there’s no exact record of the first pancake day celebration, many people suspect that it dates from around 1000 AD. In Britain, there’s evidence to suggest that communities have held pancake races since the mid-fifteenth-century, while Mardi-Gras has been an integral part of the European and Cajun calendar for centuries.  

Today, both the festival of Lent and the significance of the pancake have changed considerably. When you have a diet rich in fried chicken and pizza, eggs, milk and flour feel about as indulgent as a carrot salad. However, just because our eating habits have become more extreme in the last 500 years doesn’t mean that pancakes don’t still have their place. Plus, any day where pancakes are the centre of attention is definitely worth keeping.