A guide to celebrating Pancake Day in Europe

Friday, 17 February 2012 4:18 PM

Across Europe, Shrove Tuesday is celebrated in all kinds of different ways. If you're going away for a short break this Pancake Day, these are some of the celebrations you could be looking forward to... 

The Russians don’t just celebrate Shrove Tuesday with food – they hold a week long party that is one of the highlights of the whole Russian calander. If you’re in Russia on Pancake Day, expect to hear lots of singing, try some sledding and even take part in some snow ball fights! Don’t expect to eat thin French crepes either – the Russians eat Bilini pancakes throughout the festivities, topped with caviar, sour cream and smoked salmon (as well as sweeter toppings). Their small round shape is supposed to be evocative of the sun and a reminder of the on-coming Spring.


The Poles don’t eat pancakes like us either. Instead they eat special Polish doughnuts throughout the week leading up to Lent. On Shrove Tuesday, they also indulge in pickled herrings and vodka - a very traditional Polish combination! Then, in the evening a large party is held until Midnight to mark the official beginning of the Lent period. 

The Sunday before Shrove Tuesday, the Danes celebrate Flastelavn with Danish buns, which are filled with cream and jam. There is also a party for children, who get to dress up in costumes and play ‘hit the cat out of the barrel’ – a type of Danish Piñata. The children that get the most sweets, win the title of ‘Cat King’ and ‘Cat Queen’, after which everyone enjoys hot chocolate and more buns.  

The fun begins on 'Fat Thursday' and instead of pancakes, the Spanish share bread, chorizo and eggs. Depending on the town or city, different places have their major party on different days.However, there is often a large street parade known as the Gran Rua de Carnaval on the Saturday. Celebrations end with a traditional ceremony in which sardines are buried to symbolise the beginning of the fast.     

The French Mardi Gras carnival is world-famous and even has a re-enactment in New Orleans, USA. For 10 days the French party in Nice with parades, concerts and theatre – all whist wearing huge masks. Pancakes eaten on 2nd February instead of on Shrove Tuesday – this is Candlemas Day or the day Christ was presented at the temple by Mary. Pancakes are tossed for good luck throughout the year, and with a coin in the hand to ensure prosperity.


In Iceland, Sprengidagur (otherwise known as Bursting day), is when people eat untill they are literally bursting! Families either go to a restaurant or eat at home, and the meal traditionally served is called saltkjöt og baunir - which is a slated meat and bean stew.   

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