I never quite understood the point of Shrove Tuesday, but that’s never stopped me from celebrating it in the time-honoured manner. As a card-carrying lapsed Irish Catholic, I’m well aware that Pancake Day always falls on the day before Ash Wednesday, that traditional celebration of 90s guitar bands from Belfast. Ash Wednesday also marks the beginning of the Feast of Lent, and while I can get my head around the notion of ushering in a period of fasting by getting my mouth around something tasty, why does it have to be pancakes? I don’t remember any mention of that in the Bible.
Maybe it was hidden away in some apocryphal scripture:
And on the day before He fasted for forty days and forty nights, Jesus did gather his disciples and did sayeth unto them: ‘Who amongst you has the Jif Lemon?’ And his disciples answered him, saying none amongst them had the Jif Lemon. And Jesus did sayeth onto them: ‘Who amongst you has the golden syrup?’ And his disciples answered him, saying none amongst them had the golden syrup. And Jesus was most displeased with their shoddy catering standards and did sayeth unto them: ‘Let he who is without Jif Lemon or golden syrup caster the first sugar…’
The Book of Moses Horwitz 4: 8-12
What’s more likely, though, is that Pancake Day has its roots in some lost Pagan ritual. Writing in the first century AD, the historian Tacitus mentioned how Roman troops invading Britain were baffled to discover massive, crêpe-like artefacts sizzling in immense stone frying pans. He claimed they’d been abandoned by cowardly Druids, who probably stole the idea from the Ancient Greeks who regularly created big, batter-based offerings to their god of music, fertility and theatrical criticism.
His name, of course, was Pan.