Pancake Day!

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It’s Pancake Day!

Today we’re going to look at five traditions associated with this time of year and find out where their names originate from.

  1. Pancake
    Here in the UK, we celebrate Shrove Tuesday by feasting on pancakes. Given that a pancake is essentially a type of cake that’s cooked in a pan, we don’t need to tell you where the word comes from, but it dates back to the early fifteenth century. The Old English ‘panna’ or ‘ponne’, comes from the Proto-Germanic ‘panna’, which is probably borrowed from the Latin ‘patina’ meaning ‘shallow pan, dish, stew pan’. The word ‘cake’ dates back the early thirteenth century and comes from the Old Norse ‘kaka’, which comes from the Proto-Germanic ‘kokon’.
  2. Shrove
    Have you ever wondered why this day is called Shrove Tuesday? Does anyone actually know what ‘shrove’ means? ‘Shrove’ is the past tense for the word ‘shrive’ which is an archaic term used to describe the act of confession, penance, and absolution. The day is named for its former religious meaning, when, during the Shrovetide period (Shrove Tuesday and the two days prior to it), one usually attended confession. The name Shrove Tuesday back to c. 1500.
  3. Carnival
    Carnival is a period of festivity that precedes Lent and is usually celebrated with masquerade, music, dancing, and processions through the streets. The word dates back to the 1540s, and comes from the Old Pisan ‘carnelevare’ meaning ‘to remove meat’, or ‘raising flesh’. ‘Carnelevare’ comes from the Latin ‘caro’ meaning ‘flesh’ (which is also where the word ‘carnage’ comes from) and ‘levare’ meaning ‘lighten, raise, remove’.

    Folk etymologists claim that ‘carnival’ comes from the Medieval Latin ‘carne vale’ meaning ‘flesh, farewell!’, in reference to the carnival period being the last few days that one could eat meat before they began fasting for Lent.
  4. Mardi Gras
    Mardi Gras is the final day of the carnival period, and falls on the same day as Shrove Tuesday. In French ‘Mardi’ means ‘Tuesday’ and ‘gras’ means ‘fat’ – the name ‘Fat Tuesday’ alluding to the feasting that occurs before Lent. ‘Mardi’ comes from the Latin ‘Martis diem’ meaning ‘day of Mars’ and ‘gras’ comes fromthe Latin ‘crassius’ meaning ‘thick’. 
  5. Lent
    Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. In the Christian calendar, Lent is a period of prayer and atonement marking the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. During Lent, fasting and abstinence are traditional and this is why feasting celebrations up to and on Shrove Tuesday occur. Although Lent refers to a religious practice, the word itself comes from the Old English ‘lencten’ meaning ‘springtime’, from the West Germanic ‘langa-tinaz’ meaning ‘long days’. The use of ‘Lenten’ to refer to the ‘forty days before Easter’ dates back to the early twelfth century.

We hope you have a wonderful day of celebration. Now get back to those pancakes!

17 Feb 2015
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