Tuesday March 05, 2024

On Dutch Pancake Day, Netherlanders crown themselves with sweet flat delights — But why?

Dutch Pancake Day is celebrated on November 29th every year

By Web Desk
November 29, 2023
People get into spirit of Dutch pancake day. — X/@arjandotorg
People get into spirit of Dutch pancake day. — X/@arjandotorg

Every year on November 29th, a number of Dutch people place pancakes on their heads in a whimsical celebration that has acquired popularity — yes, it's Dutch Pancake Day today!

While most of the globe prepares their favourite sweet (and savoury, I suppose) pancakes on Shrove Tuesday in the early months of the year, Rotterdam has a unique custom.

Once the edible hat is in place, followers of the tradition say, "We wish you a happy and blessed Saint Pancake (Sint Pannekoek)!"

So, how did we get here?

In 1986, Dutch artist Jan Kruis created the celebration in a cartoon in which a man returns home in the evening to discover his family wearing pancakes on their heads.

Kruis elaborated on the concept three decades later in The Gospel of Saint Pannekoek.

In this work, he recalls the story of 12th-century monks in a monastery celebrating the birthday of a young monk and eating pancakes - but only enough for one apiece.

When the old abbott becomes cold, the young monk lays his pancake on top of him.

An angel from heaven appears, holding a golden frying pan, and flicks a pancake upon the young monk's head.

"The Lord has done us a miracle! We have a saint in our midst!" the others cry, and put their own pancakes on their heads.

Sky News talked with Dr Henriette Louwerse, a senior professor in Dutch at the University of Sheffield, to discover more about Sint Pannekoek.

"It is totally made up of course, but apparently it has gained some traction," she told us.

"I like the implicit criticism of 'the holiness of traditions'. The tendency to suggest that if traditions change, a profound identity is somehow infringed."