It’s the beginning of Lent!
Today is Ash Wednesday, and marks for many British people the first day of Lent. Lent is the 6-week period leading up to Easter where people give up something that they love.
This could be anything from chocolate to using social media, but the idea is that you give up something that will really test you.
Traditionally, people will have cleared out their cupboards the night before in preparation for this time of fasting. This left only the essentials, such as milk, flour and eggs.
You may notice that these are the exact ingredients needed to make one of England’s favourite desserts: the pancake! This is why the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday is now better known as Pancake Day.
‘Shrove Tuesday’ and Lent
The ingredients for pancakes can be seen to symbolise four points of significance at this time of year:
- Eggs – Creation
- Flour – The staff of life
- Salt – Wholesomeness
- Milk – Purity
Shrove Tuesday is a Christian holiday, which is the largest religion in the United Kingdom. The expression comes from the word shrive, meaning “absolve”.
Historically, Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day, served a dual purpose. It allowed Catholics to repent of any sins they might have made before the start of Lent. In addition, it gave Christians the opportunity to engage in a last celebration before the start of Lent.
The purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer for Easter. For Christians, Easter is characterised by making a Lenten sacrifice, fasting, praying and engaging in various spiritual disciplines.
However, ‘Pancake Day’ has become a huge event in the UK which many people partake in without being religious!
Yesterday, we made pancakes for all of our students to enjoy as part of their British cultural education.
You can see more pictures of our students enjoying their pancakes on our social media feed.
On Pancake Day, pancake races take place in villages and towns across the United Kingdom.
Legend has it that the tradition originated in 1445. Apparently, a housewife from Buckinghamshire was so busy making pancakes that she forgot the time! When the church bells rang for church service, she raced out of the house still carrying her frying pan, tossing the pancake to prevent it from burning.
The pancake race still takes across the UK, especially England. Participants with frying pans race through the streets tossing pancakes into the air and catching them in the pan.
Traditionally, the pancake race in Buckinghamshire has women contestants carrying a frying pan and race over a 415-yard course. The rules are strict: contestants must toss the pancake three times and wear a scarf and apron.
Lent around the world
Other countries also celebrate Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday in their own ways. In Iceland on Ash Wednesday, children pin small bags of ashes on the back of some unsuspecting person, dress up in fancy dress costumes, and sing songs for sweets.
Brazil refers to Shrove Tuesday as Mardi Gras, which literally translates to ‘Fat Tuesday’. Presumably, ‘Fat’ is because this is when people feast and party before the fasting period of Lent!
What would you give up for Lent? Is there anything don’t think you could live without? Let us know through via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Here at Studio, we’re going to give up splitting our infinitives!