In Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Australia, pancakes are traditionally eaten on Shrove Tuesday, which is also known as "Pancake Day" and, particularly in Ireland, as "Pancake Tuesday". (Shrove Tuesday is better known in the United States, France and other countries as Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday). Historically, pancakes were made on Shrove Tuesday so that the last of the fatty and rich foods could be used up before Lent.
Charity and school events are organized on Pancake Day: in a "pancake race" each participant carries a pancake in a frying pan. All runners must toss their pancakes as they run and catch them in the frying pan. This event is said to have originated in Olney, England in 1444 when a housewife was still busy frying pancakes to eat before the Lenten fast when she heard the bells of St Peter and St Paul's Church calling her to the Shriving Service. Eager to get to church, she ran out of her house still holding the frying pan complete with pancake, and still wearing her apron and headscarf. Pancake Day is widely celebrated in Australia; ready-made pancake mixes often sell out.
Every Shrove Tuesday since 1950 the towns of Olney and Liberal, Kansas have competed in the International Pancake Race. Only local women may compete; they race, and their times are compared to determine the international winner. In Olney the main women's race is augmented by races for local schoolchildren and for men.
The Rehab UK Parliamentary Pancake Race takes place every Shrove Tuesday, with teams from the British lower house (the House of Commons), the upper house (the House of Lords), and the Fourth Estate, contending for the title of Parliamentary Pancake Race Champions. The fun relay race is to raise awareness of the work of the national brain injury charity, Rehab UK, and the needs of people with acquired brain injury. In 2009, the Lords won.