What is Pancake Day?

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If you are living in the UK or working with people that do then you may have heard about Pancake Day. It is basically a day when people in the UK cook and enjoy thin flat cakes made in a pan But, there is a lot more to the day than enjoyable food.

If you are learning English and not sure what Pancake Day is then read this!

Shrove Tuesday

The day is actually celebrating in a number of English speaking countries including Canada, Ireland and the USA. It is also celebrated in France and Australia. In Spain, Italy and Brazil it falls at the end of Carnival.  It is called different things in different countries and the proper name in the UK is Shrove Tuesday. In other countries, it is called Mardi Gras and even “fat day”.

Why Is It Celebrated?

Like many traditional festival days, it is based on religion. But as much of the UK is no longer religious the meaning is sometimes lost. The day is always just before ash Wednesday at the start of lent. Lent marks the start of a 40 day period before Easter. During lent it is common to give up things that you enjoy as part of a Christian tradition. Butter, sugar, eggs and milk were often given up and so there was a reason to use them all up before lent started.

The Pancake

With these ingredients needing to be used the pancake was invented. It is a very simple recipe where eggs and milk are mixed together and fried in a hot pan in butter. The pancake is a very thin soft cake that is then eaten with some lemon juice and sugar.

The Cooking

Cooking pancakes is actually quite hard. When one side is ready, you need to turn it over. This is very hard and the only way to do it without tearing the pancake is to “toss” or flip the pancake in the air and catch it again in the pan. Pancake tossing is a very traditional part of Shrove Tuesday.


In some parts of Britain they have pancake races. This is where people run through the streets with a pancake in a frying pan, often in costumes.

Pancake day is considered a fun day and not one you need to totally understand. If you get a chance, why not try a pancake with a friend or go to a café to have one made for you.

If you are learning English online and would like to take a full online English course then have a look at the Perfectly Spoken plans and find out more!