Celebrating Pancake Day in the UK

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On Tuesday, February 17, the UK will be celebrating Pancake Day. This holiday is one of several the UK does not happen to share with the US, but that certainly doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it while you’re here! Check out our breakdown of the history of Pancake Day below, along with all the details you need to celebrate properly.

History of Pancake Day

pancakesPancake Day has roots as a pagan holiday, when round, warm pancakes were used as a symbol of the sun to usher in spring and the end of the winter season.

In modern tradition, many people celebrate Pancake Day as a precursor to season of Lent. Making pancakes uses some of the least healthy ingredients in one’s kitchen, making way for the fasted period of Christian tradition.

How to Celebrate

A proper celebration of pancake day of course involves the consumption of pancakes, but keep in mind these are not the American pancakes you are used to. British pancakes are much flatter and thinner than their American counterparts, resembling a French crepe more than the fluffy Denny’s variety with which you might be most familiar. The BBC has a vast collection of recipes to help you make the perfect Pancake Day meal, or you could also check out your local grocery store. Many of the large chain grocers in the UK have Pancake Day displays set up in their stores, with pre-made flour mixes to make the day go even smoother.

One of the ways Pancake Day is commonly celebrated in the UK is with a race. Rumor has it

Pancake race in progress!

that the tradition of pancake races began in 1445, when a woman in Buckinghamshire supposedly ran out of her house carrying a pancake pan (with pancake still cooking inside) when she heard the church bells tolling and realized she was late for the service. Her panicked breakfast rush has become a part of annual festive celebrations across the UK. There is even an annual Parliamentary Pancake Race featuring members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords flipping pancakes as they race to beat one another to the finish line. It’s certainly not every day you get to see Members of Parliament (MPs) racing each other with skillet in hand!


If you take part in Pancake Day this year, be sure to send us your photos using the hashtag #ukiuceap!