When is Pancake Day 2022 - and why do we celebrate Shrove Tuesday?

Father and daughter cooking in the kitchen for Pancake Day

We look forward to whipping up our favourite pancake recipes every year, but when is Pancake Day 2022 - and why do we celebrate Shrove Tuesday? 

Pancake Day has to be one of our favourite holidays. Whether you stick to a classic pancake recipe (opens in new tab) with just sugar and a squeeze of lemon or enjoy American pancakes (opens in new tab) smothered in chocolate, we all seem to love eating pancakes on this particular day. We explain the story behind the tradition.

When is Pancake Day 2022?

Pancake Day this year is on Tuesday 1st March 2022. Interestingly, the date of Pancake Day changes every year, it is always 47 days before Easter Sunday. This year, Easter Sunday is on April 17 - and this is calculated around the first full moon that follows the spring equinox in March.

Pancake Day, traditionally known as Shrove Tuesday, is on a Tuesday every year, as the name suggests. This year is a couple of weeks earlier than last when it was celebrated on Tuesday 16th February.

A different way to work out the date is to remember that it immediately precedes Ash Wednesday – another Christian celebration that signals the beginning of Lent.

Why do we celebrate Shrove Tuesday?

The origins of Pancake Day, or as it is traditionally known, Shrove Tuesday, are rooted in Christian religion. Shrove Tuesday is a day of feasting before the 40-day fast of Lent, which kicks off on Ash Wednesday.

Like Easter, the date can change year to year because it’s calculated by the lunar calendar. However, it always falls between 3 Feb and 9 March and will be 47 days before Easter Sunday.

The meaning behind Pancake Day's original name, Shrove Tuesday, comes from the religious tradition of going to confession to be absolved from sin ahead of the 40-day fast of Lent. 'Shrove' in Shrove Tuesday, comes from the word 'shrive' - defined in Collins English dictionary (opens in new tab) as: 'to hear the confession of (a penitent)' or 'to confess one's sins to a priest in order to obtain sacramental forgiveness.'

So, Shrove Tuesday became the name for the traditional day of confession before Lent.

Lent is the season in the Christian calendar that remembers the Bible story of Jesus’ 40-day journey through the desert. It’s often a time when Christians and non-Christians alike give up a particular treat or bad habit 'for Lent'. Traditionally, Christians would abstain from eating luxury foods during Lent. As well as sugar, these would be products that go off quickly - like eggs, fat and milk. So to make sure they were used up, they were mixed with flour (a cheap ingredient) to make pancakes. Cost-effective and tasty – what could be better?

It’s not just the UK that celebrates Pancake Day, however. Other countries including Ireland, Canada and Australia also celebrate it, while France has a very similar festival called “Mardi Gras” (otherwise known as Fat Tuesday).

Man and child flipping pancakes together on Pancake Day, after learning what the meaning of Pancake Day is

Credit: Getty

Why are pancakes eaten on Shrove Tuesday?

Although these days people give up all kinds of things for Lent, traditionally it was meat and dairy that were forbidden for 40 days. This meant that Shrove Tuesday was traditionally the last opportunity to use up eggs and fats. Hello pancakes! The perfect way of using up these ingredients.

Eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday was a practical choice before it became an annual tradition and tasty treat.

We’ve actually been eating pancakes for thousands of years – they’re made all over the world using different local ingredients. These days pancakes can be topped with anything from savoury pancakes (opens in new tab) with meat to indulgent double chocolate chip pancakes (opens in new tab).

Far from the comfort food recipes (opens in new tab) we like to try today, the ancient Greeks and Romans liked a simple version of pancakes for breakfast (opens in new tab).

They made pancakes using just wheat flour mixed with water and a pinch of salt, then fried in olive oil. Typically they would be topped with honey, and sesame seeds or dates.

Why do we have Pancake Day races?

While the reason we eat pancakes on Pancake Day has a fairly clear historical roots, the origin of pancake races is less clear. However, one of the best-known Pancake Day races in the country, in Olney, Buckinghamshire, is said to have been inspired by something that happened in 1445, when a woman of Olney heard the shriving bell while she was making pancakes and ran to the church in her apron, still clutching her frying pan.

In honour of this tale, women compete in aprons and scarves in the Olney pancake race to this day.

Shrove Tuesday being a day of general merriment, other traditions have sprung up. In Scarborough, Yorkshire, people take to skipping on the promenade. Long ropes are stretched across the road with ten or more people skipping on one rope. The origins of this custom is not known but skipping was once a magical game, associated with the sowing and spouting of seeds.

And Shrove Tuesday football matches, that date back as far as the 12th century, still take place in Ashbourne in Derbyshire, Alnwick in Northumberland, Atherstone in Warwickshire, Sedgefield in County Durham and St Columb Major in Cornwall.

Competitors take part in the Alnwick Shrove Tuesday Pancake race 16 February 1988.

Credit: Getty

What do you need to make pancakes?

A simple pancake recipe (opens in new tab) contains:

  • 60g plain flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 medium egg
  • 175ml of milk
  • Oil or butter for frying

Watch our classic pancake video:

These are just the basic ingredients, however. It's not how everyone likes their pancakes, as scotch pancakes (opens in new tab) and American pancakes (opens in new tab) are just two of the other types that are popular in the UK. These are a little thicker, often come covered in pancake toppings (opens in new tab) and create that classic pancake stack look when you pile them up.

Gluten free pancakes (opens in new tab) are also another great choice for anyone with food intolerances as they use specialist ingredients, like coconut flour (opens in new tab). While vegan options, such as the Hairy Bikers' vegan pancakes (opens in new tab), are becoming more popular every year. These don't use any eggs or milk but that doesn't mean you have to compromise on toppings, as you can make a whole number of exciting pancake recipes vegan. Our favourites are the cinnamon swirl vegan pancakes (opens in new tab) and vegan salted caramel pancakes.

There are also options for those looking to make healthy pancakes, with vegan protein pancakes another popular option. 2-ingredient banana pancakes (opens in new tab) are ideal for anyone watching their weight and you can even make pancakes with avocado (opens in new tab), for a special brunch treat.

So whatever you fancy this Shrove Tuesday, there really are recipes for everyone to celebrate the meaning of Pancake Day.

Breakfast pancakes with blueberries, butter and honey

Credit: Getty

Did you know these pancake facts?

Check out these cool Pancake Day facts...

  • The world’s largest pancake weighed three tonnes – as much as a hippo! It was made in 1994 in Rochdale, Greater Manchester and took hours to cook. It measured 49 ft and 3 in long. That's the same size as a double decker bus, the residents of Rochdale must have been hungry! It was eventually cut into 15,000 pieces, which were sold to raise money for local charities (though apparently it wasn’t very tasty).
  • The tallest stack of pancakes recorded is 101.8 cm (3 ft 4 in). It was made by Center Parcs Sherwood Forest, in Rufford last year. James Haywood and Dave Nicholls made and stacked a total of 213 pancakes!
  • Smaller is certainly better for flipping, though you’d be hard pushed to bean Dean Gould from Suffolk whose official record is 399 flips in 2 minutes (off the record, he says he’s managed 424!).
  • The highest pancake flip ever recorded was 9.47 metres in 2010 – well done to American Dominic Cuzzacrea.
  • The record for the most people tossing pancakes at the same time is 890. It was achieved at an event organised by the University of Sheffield (UK) in 2012. Over 1,500 people signed up for the event.

Happy Pancake Day!