What the flip is Pancake Day all about? Explaining Lent to children.

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Many a curious child might ask, ‘why pancakes?’. ‘Why do we eat them on a Tuesday?’ And, ‘what do they have to do with Jesus?’.

Here are ten facts that you can share with children to help explain this strange, but delicious, tradition. Some are ridiculous, some are informative and some of them will help to open conversations about Jesus and Easter with your family. If you have an eager and hungry hoard gathering around the hob waiting for their pancake, you could share a fact for every flip!

  1. Pancake Day is also known as Shrove Tuesday. Shrove comes from the word ‘shrive’ which means to say sorry for our sins and to receive God’s forgiveness. Many Christians would make a particular effort to be ‘shriven’ in this way on the Tuesday before Lent began, making it ‘Shrove Tuesday’.
  1. On average, each person in the UK eats two pancakes on Pancake Day. That means that 117 million pancakes are flipped and eaten that day!
  1. The tradition of eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday is very old - recipes can be found in cookery books from as early as the 1400s. (I wonder what King Henry VIII had on his pancakes?)
  1. Ash Wednesday follows Shrove Tuesday and is the first day of Lent. It’s called this because a number of Christian denominations mark the day by spreading ashes on their foreheads in the shape of a cross. It’s quite a serious day, as the ashes represent death and repentance.
  1. Lent is the 40-day period (not including Sundays) that leads up to Easter Sunday. It represents the 40 days of fasting that Jesus spent in the wilderness after his baptism. You can read about this in Matthew 4 v1-11.
  1. Many Christians around the world will ‘fast’ or skip meals, or give up certain treats during Lent to remember the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting and resisting temptation.
  1. Pancakes originally became the food to eat on Shrove Tuesday because people needed to clear their cupboards of rich foods like butter and eggs, ready for their fasting to begin.
  1. The highest pancake toss, according to Guinness World Records, measured 9.47 m and was achieved by Dominic Cuzzacrea in New York in November 2010. Woah!
  1. In France, Pancake Day is also called ‘Mardi Gras’ or ‘Fat Tuesday’! Huge carnivals and parties are thrown in many French towns and schools, where people celebrate and eat lots of delicious food before Lent begins.
  1. Jesus is the original focus of Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, Lent and Easter. Ultimately they are all a celebration of Jesus - the sacrifice He made by dying on the cross for all sin and His victory over death by coming back to life.

Did you know that we have a song all about making pancakes? It’s brilliant! It would make a fantastic soundtrack to your Pancake Day, which is just around the corner, on Tuesday 16th February. You can listen here.

About the Author

Pippa Tucker

Pippa Tucker

Pippa is married to Kristian, has a two year old son and lives on the south coast of England. Pippa loves to see God revealed in the everyday. You may have spotted Pippa's hands in our craft videos!

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