Monday, February 23, 2009

Holiday Traditions

On Pancake Day,

Pancake day in England is Shrove Tuesday. Was it celebrated in the Regency? Well...

Pancake races have been held in villages and towns across the United Kingdom for centuries. In 1634 William Fennor wrote in his Palinodia:

"And tosse their Pancakes up for feare they burne."


But the tradition of pancake racing had started long before that. The most famous pancake race, at Olney in Buckinghamshire, has been held since 1445. The contestants, traditionally women, carry a frying pan and race to the finishing line tossing the pancakes as they go. As the pancakes are thin, skill is required to toss them successfully while running. The winner is the first to cross the line having tossed the pancake a certain number of times.

The recipe is very similar to that for a crepe. It must be tossed to brown the other side in the pan, not turned, my dear, resulting in many sticky messes on the floor and the ceiling. It is then tipped onto a place, fresh lemon juice squeezed over it and sprinkled with sugar. it is then rolled up. And as fast as you can cook them, they will eat them. Guaranteed. Believe me I speak from experience.

The tradition is said to have originated when a housewife from Olney was so busy making pancakes, that she forgot the time until she heard the church bells ringing for the service. She raced out of the house to church while still carrying her frying pan and pancake.

Many towns throughout England also held traditional Shrove Tuesday football ('Mob football') games dating as far back as the 12th century. The practice mostly died out with the passing of the Highway Act 1835, which banned the playing of football on public highways. A number of towns have managed to maintain the tradition to the present day including Alnwick in Northumberland, Ashbourne in Derbyshire (called the Royal Shrovetide Football Match), Atherstone (called the Ball Game) in Warwickshire, Sedgefield (called the Ball Game) in County Durham, and St Columb Major (called Hurling the Silver Ball) in Cornwall.

So dear friends, one can certainly assume that Pancake Day was celebrated in the Regency.

Until next time Happy Rambles