Since tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, it seemed like a good idea to do a post about today.
In the more traditional Christian churches Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent, the forty-day period of fast and reflection leading up to the Christian celebration of Easter. No matter the roots of Shrove Tuesday observances, there is not much religious about the celebrating, especially in places like Rio or New Orleans. The shriving (confessing of sins), if any, comes later!
In all of the Regency novels I’ve read, both the contemporary works of Jane Austen and our modern day stories, I’ve never heard of a celebration of Carnival in England. I thought perhaps there was none. After all, in addition to his ban on Christmas in England, the radical fanatic Oliver Cromwell, banned Ash Wednesday, Lent, and Easter because of their links to Roman Catholic Christianity.
I was thrilled to find that England has it’s own version of Carnival or Mardi Gras, Pancake Day. Since 1445 the town of Olney has hosted a race on this day of aproned housewives flipping pancakes as they run. (Was this suspended during Cromwell’s reign? I don’t know. Do you?) Other communities host somewhat rowdier races like this event in Spitalfields.
Scarborough hosts rope skipping on Shrove Tuesday, and Derbyshire a football game, but besides excessive alcohol consumption, worldwide the day’s observances are mostly rooted in the idea of using up the sugar, meats, and dairy products before the great fast begins. Other countries besides England celebrate with pancakes, but others focus on puffier edibles, like malasada in Portugal and semla in Sweden.
In my house, it’s Paczki (pronounced pawnch-key). Filled with raspberry or prune, these are like jelly donuts, only better.
Imagine one of the lords or ladies who populate our versions of the Regency world running down a public street, frying pans in hand. Hmm. As we writers like to say, anything is possible with the right motivation!
If you know of any Georgian, Regency, or Victorian fiction that touches on this subject, I would love to hear about it.
Happy Pancake Day!
All images: Wikimedia or the author