Shrove Tuesday

Pancake Supper


One of the very popular events in some parishes is the Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper put on by the men's organization of a parish. Although there is not a great deal of money to be made, it is a popular parish event.

One of the pioneers in staging this event is St. Mark's Anglican Church in Ottawa. In order to make their methods, procedures, and recipes available to other churches, the Marksmen undertook to produce this Guidebook base on the experience at St. Mark's. Two other Churches that contributed to the information base in this Guidebook were St Richard's, Nepean, and St Thomas', Ottawa.

The purpose of this Guidebook is to provide suggestions on holding a Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper. There is no one recipe for holding a successful Supper. The local scene will dictate for the most part what is needed and what format will draw the most numbers. The ideas presented are tried and true and work in most situations, however, anyone organizing a supper has to "cut the material" to fit the local situation. Only a local organizer knows what works best in your area. Feel free to adapt, modify, change, or discard any suggestions.

We welcome comments and would like to share experiences with other Pancake Supper organizers. We are always trying to improve the format or the organization of the Supper.

Prepared by Lorne Bowerman

St Mark's Website:

Table of Contents

This manual contains the following sections:

Organizing a Supper

Origin of Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper

Like so many other traditions, it is difficult to pin-point the exact origins of the pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. Certainly it is broad based in the English speaking world, and it is well known in Canada.

The word "shrove" is the past tense of "shrive", and that gives us some clue. "Shrive" is a transitive verb said to come from the Middle English "shriven", in turn from the Anglo-Saxon "scrifan", which in turn owes it roots to the Latin "scribere", "to prescribe penance". It is akin to the German "schreiben" meaning "to write". From the same base the English language have "scribe", 'script", etc. The archaic meaning is to hear confession of and, usually after penance, give absolution to>

Shrovetide is the name given to the three days before Ash Wednesday, and naturally enough, are called Shrove Sunday, Shrove Monday, and Shrove Tuesday. In the old English Church, it was a special period for going to confession in preparation for the start of Lent. Like the Mardi Gras, it was probably one last fling before the abstinence of Lent. Taking the "greasy Tuesday" from the French Mardi Gras, and the origins of giving up eating food from animals during Lent, it was a time to use up the leftover animal products such as lard.

We have to make a leap of faith to tie pancakes to this period. Probably earlier pancake or pan bread might have been grease and flour based, similar to many rolls today. Alternately, even today in parts of Canada, it is not unusual to find pancakes being offered with gravy, which is animal fat based. Certainly pancakes and maple syrup would have to be North American based.


A Pancake Supper is best run as a self financed stand alone event by the men of a congregation. There is little doubt that the ladies could do it, but that would defeat the purpose of event. The pancakes, sausages or ham, and ice cream or dessert are all something that are within the mostly limited capacity or ambition of the men of a church in putting on a Supper. This does not mean that more elaborate suppers cannot be provided by men, it simply recognizes the traditions that have existed in the past and have carried on to a lesser extent today.

Again, for emphasis, it is not a huge money making venture. It can make some money, or at least break even, but it is not in the same league as bazaars, rummage sales, art sales, etc.

A good working structure is a small committee headed by a chair. After the first Supper has been held, there is so much repetition that usually one or two persons can do all the required pre-supper organization. For the Supper itself, about 10 to 15 persons should be involved to reduce the duty time and spread the workload.

If it is a factor, a separate bank account should be set up, and a proper set of books maintained. To keep the parish informed, it is usually best to publish the financial details in the weekly leaflet, and the annual report.

All organizers and supper workers should purchase a ticket.

Pancake Supper Menu

It should come as no surprise that the main part of the Supper is pancakes. French toast may be offered as an alternate for those who do not care for pancakes. Other things that could be offered are:


Ideally, the hall should be clean and comfortable with clean washrooms. It should have floors that can withstand some spilt food. However, usually only the parish hall is available, and that will have to do.

Make sure the hall is booked. If there is someone who regularly uses the hall on Tuesday night, some alternate arrangements have to be made. Most parishes have a pre-empting clause, and to have this invoked, parish council may have to become involved. If you book a year in advance, then there is never any trouble as anyone leasing the hall can work around it. It is the last minute cancellation that cause all the problems.

The layout of the hall and the availability of tables will dictate the layout. Usually, this will not be a problem in a parish as tried and true arrangements are usually available based on the experience of precious successful events.

St Mark's use mainly standard wooden 30" square tables (or card tables) with 4 persons to each table. Each table requires about an eight foot by eight foot space, i.e. 64 square feet. Some tables are put together to make seating for 6 and 8. There total seating capacity is usually around 125.

St Richard's on the other hand uses long tables arranged end in five long rows for a total seating capacity of around 100. Their tables have been converted to be standalone with legs on each 10 foot section. Around five feet should be left between each row of tables for walking room.

For ease of organization, it is usually best to draw a simple floor plan arrangement with the table positions. One factor to keep in mind is that usually continuous sittings, rather than one sitting, so attendees require access to the tables all the time. It is usually best as well to leave some space around the serving area, usually about 10 feet on one side. There is usually a line-up at some period so provision should be left for that.

As a guide, St Mark's average around 250 in attendance with a seating capacity of 125, or each seat is filled twice. St Richard's average 150 in attendance with a seating capacity of around 100, or one-half of the seats are filled twice.

Make arrangements with the sexton about setting up and taking down tables. This is an area where help should be provided.

Supper Hours

The date of the Supper is of course Shrove Tuesday, so that is known years in advance.

The timing is a matter of fitting into the local community. St Mark's is in an urban community. At first St Mark's hours were from 5:30 to 7:30, but eventually it worked into 5:00 to 7:00. The heaviest time is from 5:30 to 6:30. As is usual, there are some who have to eat early, and there are others who cannot make it until late. In a rural community, or a small town, the timing may have to be adjusted. Perhaps the best plan would be to go from 5:00 to 7:00 for the first time and make adjustments from there.

Dishes and Cutlery

What is available for dishes and cutlery depends upon the parish. Usually, there are adequate quantities of both on hand for parish events. If the kitchen is controlled by a ladies' organization, it is well to ask them about procedures and rules.

A decision has to be made on whether to use plastic cutlery and paper plates, or whether regular cutlery an china amy be used. This will depend considerably on dish washing facilities, and the amount of help available. St Mark's uses regular cutlery and dishes which are washed in an automatic dishwasher throughout the supper period. St Richard's use plastic cutlery and paper plates and this works well for them. One factor it that there seems to be universal satisfaction in seeing men doing dishes. Using plastic and paper may be seen as environmentally unfriendly. In the end, local conditions will dictate what is used.

St Mark's set each table place with a knife and fork on a paper placemat. St Richard's wraps a plastic knife, fork, and spoon in a serviette and placed in the serving area where they can be picked up when they get their meal. St Richard's makes up 150 sets, so by keeping count they know how many have been fed.

Like cutlery and plates, drinking cups or mugs may be china or plastic, depending upon what is available and what are the dish washing facilities. Many persons object to tea from plastic cups. If there is concern about breakage from children, then perhaps plastic cups could be used for them.

If the parish's dishes and cutlery are used, make sure it is left clean. Make sure the kitchen is left as clean or cleaner than when you found it. Most likely the ovens will be used for the sausages, so they should be cleaned.

Table Clothes or Place Mats

Either table clothes or place mats should be placed on the tables. With syrup, it is a sure thing that the table tops will end up "sticky".

There are several types of table clothes that can be used. Rolls of white plastic, rolls of newsprint, or paper table clothes can be purchased at a reasonable price. Either of these have the advantage that they cover the entire table, which is desirable if the table tops are messy. Plastic will stand the spilling of syrup. Usually the rolls come in 45" wide by 100 feet. Any leftover can be saved for next year.

Cotton tablecloths are not recommended. In addition to getting very messy, someone has to end up washing and ironing them. This opens the organization to criticism if it is not done properly.

If place mats are going to be used, check around for leftover ones from other events. Usually there are some advertising national programs or PWRDF. If they are not available, inexpensive ones can be purchased at a party store, or don't overlook the possibility of using standard 11 1/2" x 17" bond paper. Sometimes this size is available quite cheaply, or as leftover from some job. Regardless of what table covering or place mat is used, the tables should be cleaned afterward. The table material will determine the method of cleaning.

Ticket Price and Funding

The best arrangement here is to set the ticket price to make some money. Most suppers in Ottawa for 1998 charged $3.50 to $5.00 for adults and $2.00 to $3.50 for children 12 or under. Ticket pricing is a matter of making sure you make a little money. There is a limit as to what the public are prepared to pay for a pancake supper. The lower limit is the cost involved in putting on the supper. Check around to see what other churches are charging. Do some careful pricing of the basic food needed. Set the price accordingly.

The food and other needed items have to be purchased ahead of time. Some arrangement is needed on paying for these things. Some start-up funds are needed. These can come from individuals, or from leftover funds from previous events.


This is one area that money can be saved. Stiff cover stock is the best material for tickets. Old file folders can also be used. Both of these can be run through a regular copying machine. If none of these is available, bond paper can be used. Coloured bond would ensure that unauthorized duplication is not done.

St. Mark's has used the back of outdated business cards for years, which work very well and put something to use that would be thrown out.

Regardless of the ticket base, each ticket should have the following information:
Name of the event - i.e. Pancake Supper: