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Monday, 8 February 2016

Pancakes and the Laundry

Tomorrow is Shrove Tuesday, and this occasion reminds my husband, Rick and me of our early years teaching. The memories even  go further back though, to our own childhoods and before, when the day before Ash Wednesday was also known as pancake day.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the six weeks before Easter, commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the focus of Christianity. The Lenten period is a time of preparation for this event. During that time, people often do good works and deny themselves certain items or pleasures in reparation for their sins and to be worthy. In our youth, people gave up sweets, cigarettes, alcohol, to name a few, and went to church more often.

Pancakes on Shrove Tuesday were initially a British tradition. They used the eggs, flour, and such other luxuries as would not be consumed during the Lenten season. In Newfoundland however, pancakes contained other ingredients as well.


                                                                                          Photo courtesy of Aunt Marie Smith

Newfoundland mothers put coins, buttons, or rings in their pancakes, then watched and warned their children as they ate the tasty treats. If you had a pancake with money, it signified wealth in your future, a ring signified marriage and a button, a life as a single person. Mothers often put their own wedding rings in the pancakes. 

Some families also put string and nails in them though our mothers feared these items. The nail signified approaching death and string, one's destiny to become or to marry a fisherman. Who would want a nail? String was soft and harder to detect in the pancake, causing a health hazard if eaten. 

A dime or a nickel made children wealthy immediately, regardless of what the future would bring. A movie cost 10 cents, a chocolate bar, bag of chips, or a drink, 5 cents each, treats not common in their everyday lives. Children looked forward to pancake day, and the money and treats to come.

When I worked as principal in Buchans, Newfoundland, Rick kept the accounts, and counted the canteen money. Imagine the coins on Ash Wednesday! Rick washed them to remove the dried pancake batter. Because the children had more coins than usual, the money cleansing took some time, often requiring a brush. It was a Newfoundland version of money laundering.
 

17 comments:

  1. I never heard of this tradition. It made me smile to think of the need for money laundering. Thanks for the interesting post about Shrove Tuesday. I also remember Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday from my ancient past. :-)

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    1. Interesting times growing up and the pancake tradition is one we'd like to pass on to our granddaughters.

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  2. Nice description.... Newfie money laundering! As a child in UK, we always had pancakes on pancake day, but they were thin ones with lemon and sugar, not like Canadian pancakes. No money in them, but we always had money hidden in christmas pudding instead.
    I'll definitely be eating pancakes tomorrow.

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    1. It may be that your tradition of money in Christmas pudding is what translated to Newfoundlanders' tradition of money etc in pancakes.

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  3. When I was a kid, we certainly ate pancakes on Fat Tuesday but no coins or rings for us! However, coins were often wrapped in tinfoil and put in birthday cakes instead -- a penny, nickle, dime and (JACKPOT) a quarter!

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    1. Money in birthday cakes, interesting! A quarter was equivalent to a jackpot!

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  4. Money laundering: funny connection.

    Thanks for the reminder. I wouldn't have known otherwise.

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  5. We never put objects other than food things like nuts or bananas in our pancakes but I remember how we always celebrated when the strawberries ripened in May. The first time that we picked them we'd celebrate with pancakes topped with luscious strawberries and whipped cream (made from heavy cream, not the stuff that comes out of a can or a plastic container). Now you can get them anytime of the year and the fun has gone out of it...and they never taste real !

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    1. Strawberries aren't like they used to be for sure. I love pancakes with strawberries or blueberries. I make a sauce with the berries. I prefer it to maple syrup.

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  6. This is a tradition that I had never heard of until I read it here on your blog.
    How interesting!

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  7. I don't eat sweet things but do like the look of these. Interesting custom is popping stuff in the pancake but they must be thicker than the ones here.

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    1. I love pancakes wih berries better than with syrup. Not as sweet that way. It was better to be able to see the coins, less of a choking hazard, so the pancakes didn't have to be thick.

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  8. OMG...that story at the end of what Rick had to do with the "money laundering." I love it. I did not grow up with Shrove Tuesday in America...in my Baptist preacher's home! Nor did I grow up with Lent or Mardi Gras, etc. It's strange, I know. I have another Canadian friend, however, who tells me about pancake day every year. What a fabulous tradition!

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    1. It is a great tradition. Newfoundlanders always seem to put their own twist to British tradition.

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