Strange Planet: International Pancake Day
Billie Warden wins the Pancake Race in Liberal, Kansas, 1950, courtesy www.pancakeday.net
You may have been aware that today was Super Tuesday. And perhaps you’re already making the most of Mardi Gras. But did you know that February 5 is also International Pancake Day? So those of you disinterested in the political process or put off by Fat Tuesday’s revelry have something of your own to celebrate.
This year’s International Pancake Race, is held today (at 11:55 a.m.) is the 59th annual race between the women of Olney, England, and Liberal, Kansas. In both of the cities, the women wear a traditional apron and run a 415-yard S-shaped course flipping a pancake on a skillet (naturally – how else would you carry a pancake?).
According to PancakeDay.net, the race has a interesting origin:
In Olney, the Pancake Race tradition dates back more than 500 years to 1445. A woman engrossed in using up cooking fats (forbidden during Lent) was making pancakes. Hearing the church bells ring calling everyone to the shriving service, she grabbed her head scarf (required in church) and ran to the church, skillet and pancake in hand and still apron-clad. In following years, neighbors got into the act and it became a race to see who could reach the church first and collect a “Kiss of Peace” from the verger (bell-ringer.)
In 1950, a picture of the women racing appeared in an American magazine, drawing the attention of Liberal Jaycee President R.J. Leete. He contacted the Rev. Ronald Collins, Vicar of St.
Peter and St. Paul’s church in Olney, challenging their women to race against women of Liberal, and the race has been run ever since. The kiss is still the traditional prize in both races.
The score? Twenty-five wins for Olney and 32 for Liberal. (Apparently, the 1980 score does not count because a truck blocked the finish line.)
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Can’t make it to the race? Next time you’re in Liberal, Kansas, stop by the free International Pancake Day Hall of Fame, open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Mondays.
Photo: Olney sign, Andrew Betts (left); and contestants in Olney, 2007 ©Tony Margiocchi via Flickr (right)