I’ve already mentioned in a previous post my new friends’ amusement when I turned up to university. With the nickname Sandra Dee I was always dropping myself in it with “uncool” observations about life.
So they absolutely loved it when I innocently asked on Pancake Day “Are we all going to go skipping?” You see it’s a local tradition in Scarborough, the town I grew up in, to go skipping on the seafront on Shrove Tuesday. Not knowing any different, I assumed that everyone in the country did this.
Obviously I have never lived this comment down and even to this day jokes are still made at my expense about it.
But it’s something I often think about when I’m travelling because one of my favourite things to do on trips is to take part in different festivals. I think you learn so much about different cultures by experiencing their special events and I often plan my visits around them. I’ve been to the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain; the Miss Colombia Festival in Cartagena and the Songkran Festival in Thailand. Often when you’re getting soaked by a passerby with a bucket of water or being covered in red paint by a group of school kids you’ll look at the other tourists around you and ask: “Could you ever imagine this happening back at home?”
So I think it’s nice sometimes to remember the traditions which we have, which may seem so normal to us but would probably seem crazy to other people.
As kids we absolutely loved skipping day. (You got the afternoon off school for starters, so what’s not to like?) The whole of the seafront, which is usually filled with traffic, is closed off; the Mayor rings a special pancake bell and everyone takes along huge skipping ropes and has a fun afternoon. There was a photograph of me in our local paper, The Scarborough Evening News, at the age of five, skipping while my granny and her friend turned the rope. Unfortunately I happened to be wearing a ‘trendy’ puffa jacket at the time so the picture ended up looking like a Daily Mail campaign against child obesity. But I still have that article because to me it sums up what Skipping Day is all about: people of all ages getting caught up in the excitement of a special day. I even remember my granny and her friend having a go at jumping the rope, teaching me the important lesson that no matter how old you are, you can always be a kid at heart.
Even today when I looked on Facebook, so many people who grew up in Scarborough were talking about the nice memories they have about it.
It’s thought that the tradition has been established since at least 1903 and its origins lie in the local fishermen sorting their ropes and nets and giving those not fit for fishing to children. I love that something which began so long ago is still maintained and loved just as much today.
So you might call it pancake day but to those of us who grew up in a Yorkshire seaside town called Scarborough, no matter where we are in the world, it will always be skipping day.