Pancake races are apparently a “thing” in the UK, for Shrove Tuesday – the day before Ash Wednesday, and the start of Lent – and have been for centuries. Even clergy and choristers get into it, on occasion! Not to mention some really cute kids…
The town of Olney takes credit for their origin, as recorded on the town website:
“According to tradition it was in Olney, back in 1445, that pancake racing started. On Shrove Tuesday the church bell rang out to signal the start of the church service.
“A local housewife who was busy cooking pancakes before the start of Lent, ran to the church. She was still carrying her frying pan and wearing her apron and headscarf, and tossed the pancake to prevent it from burning.
“Local people who saw this were amused, and later started to organise pancake races. Pancake races still take place in Olney each Shrove Tuesday.”
Several of these pics are from Olney itself (a town which presumably gave its name to a town in Maryland, near where I grew up), both modern and historical; others are from elsewhere around the web… and the UK!
But of course, Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day, Doughnut Day, Fastnacht, Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, etc.) is not just an excuse to eat yummy pancakes or doughnuts. It is about preparing for a holy Lent by being shriven (past participle of “shrove”) – forgiven, pardoned – for one’s duly repented sins, in preparation for the great season of self-examination, repentance, and preparation that is Lent.