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Ideas / Album / Pancake Race
Pancake races in Britain

Making pancakes, and pancake racing, are on old tradition on the day known as "Shrove Tuesday".
The date varies each year (depending on the cycles of the moon): it is between 3 February and 9 March.
In 2012 Shrove Tuesday is on Tuesday 21 February.
Local events take place across the country - below are photos from some of the public races in London.

Shrove Tuesday is often known in the UK as Pancake Day.
In Catholic countries it is usually called Mardi Gras (French for"Fat Tuesday") or Carnaval (Italian for "farewell to meat", the origin of the English word "carnival").
Traditionally pancakes were eaten on this day to use up eggs and milk before the fasting season of Lent.
Christians went to church on this day to confess their sins and to seek forgiveness (a process known as shriving, which gives Shrove Tuesday its name).

Pancake racing is believed to have originated in the town of Olney in Buckinghamshire.
For photos from its pancake race, see: Ideas/Album/Olney-Pancake-Race

Background note: Lent & Easter
The day after Shrove Tuesday is called Ash Wednesday. This name comes from the Christian tradition of marking the foreheads of believers with a cross sign, using ashes
(these ashes were obtained by burning palm leaves used during the previous year's Palm Sunday service). This is a symbol expressing sorrow and repentance for sins.
Ash Wednesday is the start of a period known as Lent. Traditionally meat, dairy products and eggs were not consumed during this period. Some Christians still avoid eating meat on Fridays during Lent.
According to the Christian Gospels:
- Jesus spent 40 days spent forty days fasting in the desert (and enduring temptation by Satan), represented by the period of Lent.
- Jesus then rode a donkey into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, which is the start of a week known as Holy Week.
- Jesus shared the Last Supper with his disciples on Maundy Thursday.
- Jesus was crucified (killed on a cross) on the following Friday, which is known as Good Friday.
- Jesus was resurrected (returned to life) on the following Sunday, which is known as Easter Sunday.
Good Friday and Easter Monday (the day after Easter Sunday) are both public holidays in the UK.

Le Creuset Toughened Non-Stick Crepe Pan, 24 cm
Manufacturer: Le Creuset
Waffles, Crepes and Pancakes
Author: Norma Miller
Publisher: Lorenz Books
Date: February 2004
Pancake: A Global History (Edible)
Author: Ken Albala
Publisher: Reaktion Books
Date: September 2008
  The Story of the Olney Pancake Race
Author: Graham Lenton
Publisher: gml art
Date: March 2003


Each year on Pancake Day (earlier if Shrove Tuesday falls during the recess of Parliament) teams of MPs, Lords and political journalists take part in the Parliamentary Pancake Race.
They race around Victoria Tower Gardens, Millbank, London SW1P. This is outside the Houses of Parliament (nearest Tube: Westminster; map)
The event starts at about 10am. It raises money for the brain injury charity Rehab UK.

Members of the House of Commons,
the House of Lords, and TV journalists compete

Nick Robinson (the BBC's chief political editor)
tosses a pancake to the top of Big Ben (nearly)

The winning team
shows off its racing skills

Practising before the race:
this lady is taking it seriously

Perhaps this is the meaning
of "meals on wheels"?

Overtaking the competitors
(but hold onto your hat!)

After the event the
Parliamentarians go back to work ...

... through St Stephen's entrance.
But don't forget to take off your hat and apron!

Parliamentary Pancake Race: Rules of Engagement
(1) Gentlemanly and gentlewomanly behaviour will be strictly observed at all times. Those from "another place" will especially be expected to be on their best behaviour and to act as a Lordly example to all participants.
(2) Frying pans must not be used as weapons or as a means of making unseemly gestures, whatever the depth of provocation or the nature of the person at the root of the provocation.
(3) Any surplus eggs, flour or butter remaining from the earlier making of pancakes must not be propelled in the direction of other participants or spectators.
(4) The course is over 25 metres and, in that distance, pancakes must be tossed three times to a minimum height of three feet each time.
(5) If a participant allows a pancake to fall, he or she must return to the starting line and begin again.
(6) Members from each team will run in relay and the pancake and frying pan must be exchanged intact before the next member of the team can proceed.
(7) The organisers reserve the right to send off violent or unruly participants by means of showing a blue card to members of the Conservative Party, a red card to members of the Labour party, and a yellow card to members of the Liberal Democrat Party. Members of the Parliamentary Reporters Team will be referred to the Press Complaints Commission.


The first Poulters' Company Shrove Tuesday Pancake Race took place in 2005. It is now an annual event.
The venue is Guildhall Yard, in front of the Guildhall, London
(the nearest Tube is St Paul's, Mansion House or Bank; map).
Races start at noon and continue for about an hour.
Each team is made up of four members, usually from one of the traditional livery companies (trade guilds).
Teams taking part may include air pilots/navigators, butchers, chartered surveyors, clockmakers, cooks, cutlers, distillers, environmental cleaners, farmers, farriers, founders, fruiterers, fuellers, gunmakers, Mansion House, musicians, Old Bailey, poulters, remembrances, tax advisors and turners.
This event raises money for the Lord Mayor's chosen charity.

The chefs prepare pancakes ...

... and lemons (provided by the fruiterers)

Time for some photos (above: Poulters' Company team)

The Lord Mayor of London arrives
to make a short speech

The Clockmakers
check the times ...

... and the Gunmakers
supply the starting gun

The races start at 12

They're off!

Don't forget to toss the pancake

Racing in front of the Guildhall


The Great Spitalfields Pancake Race takes place each year.
The races start at 12:30pm at Dray Walk, the Old Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane, London E1 6QL
(nearest Tube: Aldgate East or Shoreditch; map)
Teams of 4 people compete in pancake races, helping to raise money for charity.

[ organised by Alternative Arts: ]

Musicians play before the races

Tossing the pancake at the mid-point ...

... before sprinting to the finishing line

The winning team
celebrate their success

Money is raised for
a charity

Well done!
See you next year ...

The following photos were taken at the event at its former venue in Old Spitalfields Market:

Serious concentration is required

Like shares, pancakes may go up or down

"I want to try it too ..."


Teams from local businesses in Bankside compete in pancake races.

In 2012 the event takes place in Borough Market's Jubilee Market on Tuesday 21 February from 12-2pm. For details, see:


What's on in the UK in February: Ideas/Events/February
What's on in the UK in March: Ideas/Events/March

Olney Pancake Race: Ideas/Album/Olney-Pancake-Race
Good Friday: Ideas/Album/Good-Friday
Easter Sunday: Ideas/Album/Easter-Sunday

The Great Christmas Pudding Race: Ideas/Album/PuddingRace
The Lord Mayor's Show: Ideas/Album/LordMayorsShow
The Houses of Parliament: Travel/Tours/London/Parliament

British food: Britain/Food

Home page: Home

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