Green Monday and Pancake Day

February 19th, 2007



Dear Mum,

There are eight Bank Holidays a year in the UK. Here in Cyprus, as far as I can make out there is a maximum possible eighteen public and/or bank holidays! I say ‘possible’ because two or three of them are not observed by everyone, and any public holiday which happens to fall on a weekend is not forwarded i.e. no weekday is given off in lieu.

Today is a public holiday. It’s called Green Monday in Cyprus, Clean Monday in Greece, and it marks the start of Lent for the Greek Orthodox Church.

According to the guide book, ‘Green Monday is celebrated with outdoor family picnics and the widespread custom of flying kites. During Lent, meat and dairy products are forbidden.‘ (Let’s hope the Cheese Squad don’t catch me then!)

Events and activities take place in all towns and villages on the island and feature plenty of music, dancing and delicious vegetarian food. There is a carnival atmosphere and some people even wear fancy dress’.

I suspect that ‘delicious vegetarian’ may well be an oxymoron  –  we’ll have to wait and see.

Actually, I don’t know why I wrote that! I’m very much a borderline vegetarian myself these days  –  I hardly ever eat meat at home. And most of the local fare that I’ve sampled so far certainly has been delicious.

The Greek word for Lent is Sarakosti and it is portrayed to children as a lady with 7 legs! At the end of each week they can cut a leg off a Sarakosti paper doll and thus keep track of how long it is until Easter.

It’s just a passing thought, but instead of encouraging children to mutilate seven-legged women, might it not be more humane just to get them to ask a grown-up how long it is before Easter, if they really want to know?

In the UK of course, Lent begins in two days time on Ash Wednesday, preceded by Shrove Tuesday  –  or Pancake Day as we all lovingly know it (Mardi Gras to the French).

I’ve always thought that Pancake Day should be a Public Holiday in the UK, and celebrated properly with events and activities taking place in all towns and villages and featuring plenty of music, dancing and delicious vegetarian food. There should be a carnival atmosphere and some people should even wear fancy dress.

The Rolling Pancakes playing at Harpers, Hastings on Pancake Day 2003. Three of them anyway! Jon and Logan are out of shot to the left.

The only place I know of in the UK where something suitably silly happens is in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, where they have a two-day game of football on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, with hundreds of people on each team, and the goals three miles apart! The tradition of the game goes back many centuries. One theory is that the ball was originally a head tossed into the waiting crowd following an execution! Which was nice…!

One of the earliest rules, from ancient times, is that players are not allowed to murder their opponents! Apart from that, as long as you don’t use any form of motorised transport, and keep out of churchyards, the cemetary and the Memorial Gardens  –  pretty much anything goes!

From what I can gather no-one actually kicks the ball though  –  they pick it up and run with it. And the goals are actually stone posts  –  you have to stand in the river and throw the ball against the post to score! Judging by what I’ve seen and read, it all sounds to me like a fantastic excuse for a monumental, two-day bender!  –  and exactly the sort of thing I had in mind!

Yes! Pancake Day should definitely be a Bank Holiday!


– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

The world’s biggest pancake was cooked in Rochdale in 1994. It was 15 metres in diameter, weighed three tonnes and had an estimated two million calories.

…and I think this must be what ate it!

'Why is it that one is never enough...?'


©MPB 19/February/2007
Homer Simpson appears courtesy of Matt Groening
No idea where the photo of the pancakes used in the stamp came from
Ashboune Shrovetide Football photos courtesy of the BBC
No idea where I found Fat-Arse!


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