Shrove Tuesday (aka Pancake Day) for most people means pigging out on pancakes, but there is so much more to the day. From local customs to wacky races, there are quirky events taking place all over the UK. We bring you a selection of our favourite events for 2020…
Olney Pancake Race
Every Shrove Tuesday, Olney Pancake Race sees local women, dressed as ‘traditional housewives’, run through the town, armed with a frying pan and pancake.
This famous custom first took place in 1445 and was revived in 1948 by the Vicar of Olney (perhaps that’s why the winner receives a kiss from the verger). It’s uncertain how the race originated but one story is that a harassed housewife, hearing the shriving bell, dashed off to church still clutching her frying pan containing a pancake.
The race starts with the sound of a large bronze ‘Pancake Bell’; and this year’s family friendly event will begin at 11.55am on Shrove Tuesday (25th February).
Scarborough Skipping Day
The Yorkshire seaside town of Scarborough celebrates Shrove Tuesday with the unique tradition of skipping. This has been an annual tradition for more than 100 years and it gives fun-loving adults the chance to mess around on the seafront without feeling childish!
Fancy dress pancake races also take place along Aberdeen Walk, as competitors tackle an obstacle course to win special prizes. Two people and a frying pan are all that’s needed to take part. This year’s event will kick off at 12pm, with the traditional skipping along Foreshore Road taking place after the races.
Littlehampton Charity Pancake Olympics
The Littlehampton Charity Pancake Olympics sees groups of all ages compete in quirky pancake themed events to raise money for their chosen charities, and to win a prestigious gold medal.
The games usually involve such sporting activities as pancake curling, a pancake relay and some skilled flipping. This year’s event will take place on Saturday 22nd February rather than Shrove Tuesday itself, so get your teams ready asap!
Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide Football
If the Pancake Olympics just aren’t quirky enough for you, then folk over in Derbyshire do something altogether different for Shrove Tuesday… they play a rather unusual football match.
Played every Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, the Royal Shrovetide Football game is played in the town of Ashbourne over two eight-hour periods. Goals are placed three miles apart and there are very few rules!
A special leather ball with a cork inner is thrown into the air at the beginning of the match; into the crowd of players or ‘hug’. The players try to move the ball to their goal by pushing against the opposition. The teams are made up of locals, known as the Down’ards and Up’ards, defined by what side of the river they were born on.
Spectators are welcome to watch (and follow) the game as it moves through the streets of the town, over local fields and in the river. It’s not for the faint-hearted though!
The Atherstone Ball Game
Over in Warwickshire, another ball game, very similar to Ashbourne’s is played. The Atherstone Ball Game sees locals playing a traditional and unruly match across the town.
This ancient Shrove Tuesday tradition is thought to be more than 800 years old. The game tends to get the townsfolk literally brawling over a large ball, as it moves up and down the town’s streets.
Because of this the shops are usually boarded up and the schools closed. Atherstone locals gather in the main street during the afternoon and play until 5pm (when the person holding onto the ball at that time is pronounced the winner). The only rule to the game is that the ball must not leave the town.
St Columb Silver Ball Hurling
St Columb also play a ball game, but this one is played with a much smaller ball! Hurling the Silver Ball takes place every Shrove Tuesday and the second Saturday after.
The game is similar to other traditional ball games held across the UK, but this version with a silver ball is unique to Cornwall. The game was once played across the county, but now only a few places still observe the custom.
The game usually starts at 4.30pm with the ‘throw-up’ in Market Square, followed by a large scrum. The goals are set about two miles apart, at either end of the town and the winner is the person who manages to get the silver ball over the goal or boundary. The winner is carried back to Market Square as a traditional hurling song is sung.
At night, the winner returns to Market Square to call up the ball again. This is followed by a visit to the local public houses where the ball is immersed in beer jugs.
Lichfield Shrovetide Fair and Pancake Toss
Lichfield boasts an annual Shrovetide Fair, which has been in existence since at least 1623, and is still opened with an ancient ceremony. The civic procession arrives at the Market Square for 12 noon, when the Town Crier makes a proclamation to open the fair. This is followed by the ‘pan on bell’ sounding from St Mary’s steeple. Local children, led by the Mayor and city officials, then rush to claim their traditional free ride.
Originally the court of ‘Pie Powdre’ would have been held in the Guildhall for ‘the redressing of all grievances or complaints that shall happen to arise during the time of the fair’, but today this has been replaced with the more recent and fun custom of pancake races.
Lentsherd in Clovelly
The unique village of Clovelly in Devon celebrates with its own custom, Lentsherd (pronounced ‘Lanshard’), on Shrove Tuesday.
At dusk, children walk to the harbour, dragging clattering tin cans tied to string as they go. The cans are then tied together and thrown into the sea (and later retrieved). The custom is meant to rid Clovelly of all the bad things from the previous year, by chasing bad spirits away and driving the devil into the sea before Lent.
The children taking part get to enjoy free sweets (yum).
Better Bankside Pancake Day Race
London’s pancake flipping relay races will see local businesses gather teams together at Marlborough Sports Garden for this annual charitable event.
Beginning at 12.30pm, the races will be raising money for local charity Paintings in Hospitals. Spectators can cheer on the plucky competitors whilst tucking into their own pancakes.
The Poulters’ Pancake Race
The Worshipful Company of Poulters (the historic company once tasked with regulating the sale of poultry and game) host an ‘inter-livery’ pancake race in the City. Taking place annually on Shrove Tuesday, in Guildhall Yard, The Livery Companies of the City of London compete against one another in their traditional regalia or in fancy dress.
The Livery Companies of the City of London are the historic trade associations which were once responsible for the regulation of trades such as clock making and gun making. So, for the races, the Gunmakers are tasked with starting each heat with a bang, whilst the Clockmakers take care of the timings. The Fruiterers provide lemons, the Cutlers provide the forks, the Glovers provide the white gloves worn by each runner, and the Poulters supply the all important eggs for making the pancakes!
The Breakfast Club Pancake Day Challenge
If none of the other events take your fancy, and you do indeed want to pig out on pancakes, then why not do it for a good cause?
The Breakfast Club is once again challenging its customers to eat 12 pancakes in 12 minutes or less. If you win you eat for free, but if you lose you must pay!
All profits will go towards treating their pensioner pals to a fun day out, to help combat loneliness and isolation. The Breakfast Club will also have a special pancake menu available, with a pub grub theme. Enjoy the likes of Ham Egg & Chips, and Great Balls of Deep-Fried Cornflake Ice-Cream (drenched in apples and butterscotch with a stout sauce)!