Hello. How are you? Today we are going to talk about a very special day. This week it was Valentine’s Day, but that’s not what we are going to talk about. It’s a bit boring. The day I am thinking of is much more exciting! Today, in the UK and some other countries it is Pancake Day.
Now, you might not have heard of pancake day so let me explain a little. It’s a day where we eat pancakes. Pancakes are simple cakes cooked in a frying pan. They are sweet and you can add toppings to make them even more delicious. It is quite traditional to have them with sugar and lemon juice, or orange, but the best way is to eat them with nutella.
In the UK, pancakes are usually very thin, but in the USA they are a bit fatter. Here we make them with flour, salt, sugar, eggs, a little butter and milk. They are very easy to make so children often learn to make them. When you make pancakes the hardest part is flipping them. When they are cooked on the first side you need to toss them by throwing them up in the air and catching them in the frying pan so that the other side gets cooked too. It’s quite difficult, but even a bad pancake is a good thing.
The tradition of eating pancakes on pancake day goes back a long way. We also call this day Shrove Tuesday and it is connected to the Christian religion. Shrove Tuesday is the last day before the period called Lent. During Lent, many Christians “fast”. That is to say they don’t eat certain foods like meat and rich, sweet foods. This period lasts for 40 days and ends at Easter (the festival of chocolate eggs!).
In the past, the day before lent started, people would use all the sugar and butter that they had in their house to make pancakes so that they wouldn’t be tempted to eat it during Lent. Luckily this tradition has continued and we get to eat these delicious treats every year.
Other things happen in the UK on pancake day too. For example, in many towns and villages there are pancake races. You can find videos of these on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LzmA-mQo0Fs). Basically, this is a race where four or five people will run against each other. But as well as running, they have to carry a frying pan with a pancake and continue to flip the pancake during the race. Often the people running in these races are trying to raise some money for charity and they are quite funny to watch.
In some villages they also play an ancient version of football. These football matches will involve everybody in the village – sometimes hundreds of people – and they will split into 2 teams. There is no pitch, they just play on the streets and sometimes the goals can be 3 miles or 4.5km apart. These matches last for hours and there are not really many rules. One of these matches is played in a village called Ashbourne. Here are their rules:
- Committing murder or manslaughter is prohibited. – so you can’t kill anyone
- Unnecessary violence is frowned upon. – frowned upon means that people don’t like it, but it is not banned.
- The ball may not be carried in a motorised vehicle. – So you can’t use a car, for example.
- The ball may not be hidden in a bag, coat or rucksack, etc. – People must have tried this, otherwise they wouldn’t have a rule about it.
- Cemeteries, churchyards and the town memorial gardens are strictly out of bounds. – Only these places, so everywhere else, including people’s homes, are used in the game.
- Playing after 10 pm is forbidden. – that’s bedtime.
- To score a goal the ball must be tapped 3 times in the area of the goal.
Pancake day is the same day as the Carnival in many other countries. In the UK, we don’t like dancing and partying so much. We prefer just to eat cakes.
If you want to see a video of a pancake race, or of the Shrove Tuesday football match then you can find some links on my webpage and in the description of this podcast.
Do you have a carnival in your country? Get in touch and let me know.