Shrove Tuesday "Pancake Day" in Palterton

"Shrove" comes from 'shrive' which means confessing your sins.

In the Middle Ages this was the day before the fasting time of Lent (Ash Wednesday).  The custom of eating pancakes on this day was to use up eggs and fat which was forbidden during the forty days of Lent.

This time corresponds with carnivals in European countries: the Mardi Gras in France and the Fetter Dienstag in Germany.

Shrove Tuesday was a great day for local football in England.  It was a holiday when everyone turned out and waited for the kick-off by the Mayor.

Towns played Towns and Villages played Villages.

These games often involved several hundred men who would play for hours.

Medieval games took place at Derby, Corfe Castle, Alnwick and Bromford, but Chester was most famous for its game of football on Shrove Tuesday.  It was said that the game had been played there for centuries in commemoration of the great day in AD.217 when a mighty flying wedge was organised to drive the Roman legions out of that city.

Carnival-like celebrations were held on Shrove Tuesday until the nineteenth century.  Contests of ball games often turned into riots between opposing villages/towns and feasts of pancakes and much drinking followed the contests.

In Louisiana, America, where tourism has developed as an important industry, they have a series of parades and balls, culminating in a Mardi Gras celebration on Shrove Tuesday which has become a national attraction in New Orleans.  Many parks and gardens are set aside for public use and display.

The state is advertised as a 'Sportsman's Paradise' for hunting, fishing and football - makes English Shrove Tuesday sound as flat as the proverbial 'pancake'.

Since the turn of the twentieth century and possibly before Palterton has celebrated Shrove Tuesday, and many pancakes have been consumed, but the religious significance was never appreciated by the villagers, with the possible exception of a few.  To children it meant a holiday from school with the prospect of eating many pancakes, watching our (grand)parents tossing them in the air and catching them in the pan.

It had long been a tradition in the village that the school holiday on Shrove Tuesday was spent by the boys playing marbles and whip and top.  The girls played with skipping ropes and with shuttlecocks and battledores.  I recall the wooden 'tops' had names such as "window breakers" - slim stemmed with wider tops and when "whipped" they frequently flew through the air, whilst others were fatter tops - we used to chalk the tops to make a pattern as they were whipped.

Sadly these practices declined around the early 1950's and are no longer part of the Palterton village tradition.

There was a four line ditty...... that Palterton village children had sung for many years. We sang it on our way home from school the day before Shrove Tuesday..... There were only about four words per line...  it was about... "give us a holiday" I cannot remember the words. .

1953.  Derbyshire Times.  The Duke of Rutland has accepted an invitation to "Throw the ball up" to start Ashbourne's Shrove Tuesday football game.  It is a two day game.

May Day has not been celebrated in Palterton since at least 1915 and possibly longer than that.

There were other traditions in the village such as the Harvest Festival that was celebrated at the Primitive Methodist Chapel, but sadly that tradition has also died.

Shrove Tuesday "Pancake Day" in Palterton


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Created 2 December 2001
Last updated: 1 February 2004