Tag Archives: tradition

What is in your pancake? Shrove Tuesday


March 5, 2019

Pancake ChefMardi Gras literally means “Fat Tuesday. The day is also known as Shrove Tuesday (from “to shrive,” or hear confessions) or Pancake Tuesday.

The custom of making pancakes comes from the need to use up fat, eggs and dairy before the fasting and abstinence of Lent begins. This year Ash Wednesday is on March 6.



On Shrove Tuesday,  (March 5) Christians were encouraged to confess their sins so that they were forgiven before the season of Lent began.

The term survives today in ordinary usage in the expression short shrift”. To give someone short shrift is to pay very little attention to his excuses or problems. The longer expression is, “to give him short shrift and a long rope,” which formerly meant to hang a criminal with a minimum of delay.

What is in that pancake

Lent is a time of abstinence, of giving things up. So Shrove Tuesday is the last chance to indulge yourself, and to use up the foods that aren’t allowed in Lent. Pancakes are eaten on this day because they contain fat, butter and eggs which were forbidden during Lent.

Photo Credit: The Rooms; Children at dinner IGA 33.41

Pancakes were a simple way to use these foods, and one that could entertain the family. Objects with symbolic value are cooked in the pancakes, and those who eat them, especially children, take part in discovering what their future will be as part of the meal.




The person who receives each item interprets the gift according to the tradition:

  • a penny—to symbolize poverty
  • a nickel—to symbolize wealth
  • a string—to symbolize a fisherman (if a boy got the string, he would be a fisherman, if a girl did, she would marry one)
  • a holy medal—the house blessed with a priest or a nun.
  • a hair clip—hairdresser or barber
  • a button — to symbolize that you would never marry – a bachelor or an old maid
  • a pencil stub – a career in teaching: imagine a lead pencil in your food!)
  • a thimble—to symbolize that you would be a seamstress (a girl) or a tailor (a boy)
  • a wedding ring—to symbolize that you would marry soon




Bonfire Night

November 5

Bonfire Night

Guy Fawkes Night is celebrated annually on November 5th. The origin of this celebration stems from events which took place in 1605, a conspiracy known as “The Gunpowder Plot,” intended to take place on November 5th (the day set for the opening of Parliament). The object of The Gunpowder Plot was to blow up English Parliament along with the ruling monarch, King James I. It was hoped that such a disaster would initiate a great uprising of English Catholics, who were distressed by the increased severity of penal laws against the practice of their religion.

The conspirators, who began plotting early in 1604, eventually expanded their members to a point where secrecy was impossible. While the plot itself was the work of a small number of men, it provoked hostility against all British Catholics and led to an increase in the harshness of laws against them. Even to this day, it is the law that no Roman Catholic may hold the office of monarch and the reigning king or queen remains Supreme Head of the Church of England.

It is believed that the very night the Gunpowder Plot was thwarted in 1605, bonfires were lit in London to celebrate its defeat of the Catholics. As early as 1607, there is a record of bonfire celebrations taking place in Bristol.

Newfoundland Bonfire Night

Traditionally in Newfoundland, November 5th was the big celebration for the Anglicans. The Catholics never took part. With the passage of time the tradition gradually became established in Catholic communities.

The newspapers of the day and oral interviews report that  They (Protestants) tried to make really big bonfires, sometimes with full blubber barrels, to rile the Roman Catholic’s.”

Barrels of any sort which were left unprotected on Bonfire Night were likely ‘bucked.”  There was also the tradition in some communities that a few tar barrels were put outside for the boys who’d be going around getting stuff for the bonfire.

Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night is a tradition that continues in many communities in the province.

A children’s rhyme   tells the story of the  The Gunpowder Treason and Plot

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t’was his intent
To blow up King and Parliament.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England’s overthrow;

By God’s providence he was catch’d
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!

Blubber Barrel a large wooden container in which cod livers or fat of whales or other large marine animals are stored are stored or placed for the rendering of the oil. (Dictionary of Newfoundland English)

Bucked: to collect or gather surreptitiously; stealing.
He bucked a barrel last night for the bonfire [on November 5th. ]1964 Evening Telegram 27 June, p. 10 (Dictionary of Newfoundland English)