Is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of Lent. It is a day of penitence to clean the soul and yet, its also a day of celebration, being the last chance to feast before Lent begins.
Shrove Tuesday is often referred to as Pancake Day and in Olney in Buckinghamshire this day is celebrated by the famous Pancake Race. Apparently, this came about way back in the year of 1445, when a woman, who was cooking pancakes, heard the shriving bell summoning her to confession. She quickly ran to church wearing her apron and still holding her frying pan and, thus without knowing it, she started a tradition that has lasted for over five hundred years.
According to the rules, only women wearing a dress (no trousers or jeans), plus an apron and a hat or scarf on her head may take part. The race is run over a distance of 415 yards and takes place in the market square of Olney. The runners have to toss their pancake twice, once at the start of the race and again at the end. The winner receives a kiss of peace from the Verger and the Vicar follows that by saying - The Peace of the Lord be always with you. All who finish the race are expected to attend the Shriving Service. Competitors place their frying pans around the font before taking up their seats.
The town of Olney competes with a similar race run in the town of Liberal in Kansas to see who can run the fastest race. I think Liberal has been the winner for a few years now.
I’m pleased to add that my dear friend Cicely Cooper who lives in Olney, won the Pancake Race in 1954.
Shrove Tuesday is extra special for me this year, falling as it does on 28th February, it is my birthday.
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