Pancake Day – Shrove Tuesday

Wedding Ring for Pancake
Grandmother’s Wedding Ring for Pancake

Pancake Day is celebrated in Newfoundland on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the beginning of Lent. The name shrove comes from the Christian custom of making confession of sin and receiving forgiveness, being shriven, on that day.

In many countries festivals are held on the last days before the beginning of lent. These include the Fastnacht in Germany and Carnivals in many places including the Mardi Gras, in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro Brazil, and the Carnival in Trinidad.

During Lent it was the custom to fast, as Christ did for his forty days in the desert. Every person, including children, was expected to “give up” some food for Lent, especially sweets.

Following the tradition of their English ancestors, Newfoundlanders serve pancakes as the family meal for supper on Shrove Tuesday (in the past to use up the last of their eggs and butter before Lent.) The pancakes are served with molasses, which was brought back to Newfoundland from the West Indies Islands (along with rum) in exchange for fish.

As an additional treat, items were placed in the pancake batter before it is cooked to foretell the future for family members. When a person recieved a pancake with a certain item, everybody in the family knew what it meant.

If a boy received an item for a trade, it meant he would enter that trade. If a girl received the item for a trade, it meant she would marry a person from that trade.

Although today families usually concentrate on placing coins and perhaps a wedding ring in the pancakes, in the past the items included:

  • A piece of string (representing a net)– a fisherman
  • A piece of wood ( representing woodworking) — a carpenter
  • A wedding ring (representing marriage)–the person would marry
  • A button (representing bachelorhood) — the person would not marry
  • A penny (representing poverty) — the person would be poor
  • A dime (representing riches) — the person would be wealthy
  • A nail (representing horseshoe)– a blacksmith

Pancake Recipe
2 egg
2 cups of flour
1 1/2 cups of milk
4 tbsp butter or margarine or shortening
2 tablespoons of sugar
6 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt

Makes about 20 pancakes.

Beat egg until fluffy; beat in remaining ingredients just until smooth. Grease and heat frying pan.
Thoroughly clean items to be placed in pancakes. Spoon pancake batter into pan and place item in each pancake, until all items are used. Serve at least one pancake with an item to each family member.

Molasses Coady
2 cups of molasses
1/2 cup of water
3 tbsp butter or margarine

Boil ingredients together for about 10 minutes and pour over pancakes.


Filed under Baccalieu Trail, Bay Roberts

2 responses to “Pancake Day – Shrove Tuesday

  1. Jocelyn Reeves

    My mom is Irish and from Newfoundland. We carried out this tradition throughout my childhood and this year I will be passing it on to my own children. Surprised and happy to find this article.

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