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All of you out there in Hotcakesland, take note: National Pancake Day is coming! And what, exactly, is National Pancake Day? Well, that depends on who you ask...

If you want to take a historical view, this year's National Pancake Day will be on Tuesday, February 20 -- otherwise known as "Shrove Tuesday," "Fat Tuesday," "Martes de Carnival" or just "The day before Ash Wednesday." Traditionally speaking, the Tuesday before the beginning of Lent is used both for confession ("shrove" being the past-tense of the verb "shrive," meaning to beg absolution) and for stuffing one's face in advance of the Lenten privations.

But I digress.

Shrove Tuesday is called Pancake Day because -- you guessed it --pancakes are one of the traditional things to be gorged upon during the run-up to Ash Wednesday. On this day around the world there are pancake festivals, pancake feasts, all manner of pancake contests and, since 1950, an annual competition between the towns of Liberal, Kansas, and Olney in Buckinghamshire that involves folks racing a pre-set course while flipping a pancake in a pan.

I have no idea why they do this. Odds are good, neither do the participants. My guess is that whiskey is very much in evidence during the proceedings.

In more modern, secular interpretations, National Pancake Week runs from February 21 to the 27 -- with National Pancake Day falling on September 26! Oddly, National Maple Syrup Day is either the third Saturday in March or December 17, again depending on who you ask. And don't even get me started on the National Waffle Day controversy.

Finally, and most important -- at least right now -- is the fact that IHOP will celebrate National Pancake Day this year on February 20, from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m., by giving away free short-stacks to all comers.

I know where I'm gonna be. -- Jason Sheehan

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