February 20, 2023 2 Comments
I've always been a curious sort, so when I went to put together a National Pancake Day promotion this week for Golden Dog Farm, I was inclined to dig a bit to find out why Shrove Tuesday, or the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday is also known as National Pancake Day. I had more than a few "aha moments" during this discovery process and if you are up for joining me on a short trip down the rabbit hole, you will too.
It all starts about 1400 years ago and we can thank Pope Gregory I (aka Saint Gregory the Great) for Pancake Tuesday. Around 600 AD, Pope Gregory made a rule instructing Christians to abstain from eating all forms of meat and animal products during Lent.
He sent a letter to Saint Augustine of Canterbury, the founder of the Christian church in southern England, instructing him to enforce those same fasting rules in England. Those “animal products” included eggs, milk and butter, so over a few centuries those early English Christians took to making pancakes on Tuesday to use up their supplies of dairy products before the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday.
And while the English ended up coining and celebrating Pancake Day, as the tradition spread throughout Europe, the French picked up on it too. They named their day of celebration/indulgence Mardi Gras (by the way, I now see “Fat Tuesday” in an entirely different light with this understanding of history) and they made waffles, crepes, and king cakes to use up their “fat” and dairy products (while king cakes are closely tied to Mardi Gras today, it is their last appearance of the year, with their first appearance actually on the Epiphany which gives the King Cake its name).
So while it has always been obvious why the Tuesday before Lent would be a day of indulgence, now we know why it is called Pancake Day in England and Mardi Gras in France.
But wait, there's more. Just because people couldn't eat eggs during lent, that didn't mean the chickens would stop laying eggs. Eggs were too valuable to let go to waste, and these early Christians hard boiled the eggs so that they would last until they could be eaten at the end of Lent. So my friends, if you're hunting for the point in this last paragraph, what you're actually looking for is Easter eggs!
Yep, I know... mind blown.
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