Which is the better, Valentine’s Day or Pancake Day? Valentines as we all know falls on February 14th and in 2020 – it’s a Friday.

Pancake Day always falls on Shrove Tuesday which is 47 days before Easter. Easter in 2020 is Sunday 12th April. Therefore, Shrove Tuesday 2020 is on 25th February 2020

So, what’s the background?

Let’s look at Valentine’s Day first. The day gets its name from a famous saint, but there are several stories of who he was. The popular belief about St Valentine is that he was a priest from Rome in the third century AD. Emperor Claudius II had banned marriage because he thought married men were bad soldiers. Valentine felt this was unfair, so he broke the rules and arranged marriages in secret.

Which is the better, Valentine’s Day or Pancake Day?

When Claudius found out, Valentine was thrown in jail and sentenced to death. There, he fell in love with the jailer’s daughter and before he was taken to be killed on 14th February, he sent her a love letter signed “from your Valentine”.

Did you know that in the Philippines, February 14th. is by far the most popular day to get married on, with mass weddings of hundreds of couples being commonplace.

Formal messages, or valentines appeared in the 1500s, and by the late 1700s commercially printed cards were being used. Valentines commonly depict Cupid, the Roman god of love, along with hearts, traditionally the seat of emotion. Traditional gifts include chocolate and flowers, and in particular red roses – as a symbol of beauty and love.

Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday, is the traditional feast day before the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday. Lent – the 40 days leading up to Easter – was traditionally a time of fasting and on Shrove Tuesday, Anglo-Saxon Christians went to confession and were “shriven” (absolved from their sins). A bell would be rung to call people to confession. This came to be called the “Pancake Bell” and is still rung today.

This was the last opportunity to use up eggs and fats before embarking on the fast and pancakes are the perfect way of using up these ingredients. The ingredients for pancakes were also seen to symbolise four points of significance at this time of year; Eggs – Creation, Flour -The staff of life, Salt – Wholesomeness and Milk – Purity.

In the UK, pancake races form an important part of the Shrove Tuesday celebrations – an opportunity for large numbers of people, often in fancy dress, to race down streets tossing pancakes. The object of the race is to get to the finishing line first, carrying a frying pan with a cooked pancake in it and flipping the pancake as you run.

olney pancake race

The most famous pancake race takes place at Olney in Buckinghamshire. According to tradition, in 1445 a woman of Olney heard the shriving bell while she was making pancakes and ran to the church in her apron, still clutching her frying pan. The Olney pancake race is now world famous. Competitors have to be local housewives and they must wear an apron and a hat or scarf. Each contestant has a frying pan containing a hot pancake. She must toss it three times during the race. The first woman to complete the course and arrive at the church, serve her pancake to the bell-ringer and be kissed by him, is the winner.

Suggesting there is a battle between Valentine’s Day and Pancake Day is a little preposterous – to say the least.

They celebrate quite different things. Love for a sweetheart or Love for a flat cake. In many people’s hearts, love and pancakes will always inseparably connected.

Both are not great for the waistline. One year we go straight from stuffing our faces with pancakes, to doing the exact same thing with heart-shaped chocolates and visa-versa the following year.

Let’s look at the pro’s and con’s of each day.

  • On Valentine’s Day half of the nation are happy and the other half is a mixture of sadness, indifference or just a feeling of being left out.
    On Pancake Day everyone is happy – because, you know, well it’s pancakes with everything! As a kid you could not wait to get home from school. Mum would have the frying pan on, a large bowel of batter and granny’s old ladle. The main topping then was granulated sugar and lemon juice. Today it’s more likely to be a pot of Nutella!
  • On Valentine’s Day, you are often expected to make expensive purchases of flowers, perfume/aftershave and diamond encrusted jewellery. On Pancake day, through a process that we can only really describe as magic, you take some of the cheapest and least exciting ingredients and turn them into something indescribably yummy. You then get to top them with whatever you like, and you get to eat them all to yourself!
  • On Valentine’s Day, you are made to feel sickly by public shows of affection, grimace at over-the-top pre-written cards and over-sized teddy bears that will tell you “I luv you” – if you squeeze them hard enough. On Pancake Day the only reason to feel sick is by eating too many pancakes. But can you ever eat too many?


Some more observations and conclusions between the two.

  • You can always rely on making the right decision with pancakes. Every decision involving a pancake is a good one. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the people you date.
  • You will never ever regret the money you spend on pancake ingredients and that 1kg jar of Nutella. It’s a shame the same can’t be said for that fluffy teddy bear holding a love heart.
  • Ready for some real pillow talk? Love and relationships can hurt you. Pancakes will never let you down.
  • Valentine’s Day marks an incredibly awkward time of trying to strike the balance between making an effort and not looking like a trying too hard. That isn’t a thing on Pancake Day. A limit on toppings does not exist.
  • Alright, so dating can be great, and relationships can be a magical thing but do they come with triple chocolate chips, and lemon and sugar dusted on top? Didn’t think so.
  • Who needs romance when you’ve got ice cream and hundreds and thousands? Sorry but relationships are the last thing on our mind when we’ve got pancakes covered in cream, strawberries and sugar.
  • Has anyone ever regretted celebrating Pancake Day? Didn’t think so.


So, whatever you prefer, have a good one and if you’re lucky have a great time on both occasions.