Pancake Paradise: How the Dutch Do Pancake Day

Every culture has its own unique traditions that bring joy and laughter to families and communities. In the Netherlands, there is a delightfully absurd and relatively new tradition that involves sitting down for dinner with a pancake on your head. Yes, you read that right! On the 29th of November, Dutch families come together to celebrate Sint Pannekoek (Saint Pancake) in a way that is both unconventional and entertaining. In this article, we will explore the origins of this peculiar tradition, the story behind it, and how it has gained popularity over the years.

The Origins of Dutch Pancake Day

The tradition of putting pancakes on heads may seem bizarre, but it actually originated from a comic strip created by Jan Kruis, a talented Dutch cartoonist. In 1986, Kruis published a comic strip in the women’s magazine Libelle, featuring a Dutch family gathered around the dinner table with pancakes balanced precariously on their heads. The strip explained that November 29th is Pancake Day, and in addition to eating pancakes, it is customary to place them on your head and wish each other a “happy and blessed Saint Pancake.” This whimsical comic strip introduced a new tradition that would soon capture the hearts and imaginations of many Dutch people.

The Legend of Saint Pancake

In another comic strip titled “The Gospel of Saint Pancake,” Jan Kruis further developed the story behind this made-up tradition. According to the comic, the legend of Saint Pannekoek dates back to a 12th-century monastery near Rotterdam. The story revolves around Brother Gerrit, a young monk who selflessly placed a steaming pancake on the bald head of the monastery’s elderly abbot to keep him warm during a chilly November meal. As a reward for his act of sacrifice, an angel descended with a golden frying pan and tossed Gerrit a replacement pancake. The monks rejoiced, declaring Gerrit a saint and thus establishing a new tradition of wearing pancakes on the head on this special day.

Celebrating Dutch Pancake Day

Dutch Pancake Day, also known as Sint Pannekoek, is mainly celebrated in homes and restaurants in the regions of Rotterdam and Groningen, although its popularity is spreading throughout the country. On this day, families gather together to enjoy a delicious meal of pancakes and partake in the whimsical tradition of placing a pancake on their heads. The pancakes are usually homemade and can be topped with a variety of sweet or savory toppings, depending on personal preference. The act of balancing a pancake on the head is done with laughter and joy, creating lasting memories and bringing families closer together.

The Rise of Pancake Selfies

In recent years, social media has played a significant role in spreading the word about Dutch Pancake Day. People of all ages, from the young to the young at heart, can’t resist the temptation to capture the moment with a self-deprecating selfie. The hashtag #PancakeDay or #SintPannekoek is flooded with images of beaming Dutch families proudly wearing their pancake crowns. This light-hearted and quirky tradition has become a way for people to connect and share their enthusiasm for the celebration, spreading laughter and cheer across the digital realm.

Critique of Traditions and Identity

The tradition of Dutch Pancake Day, although entirely made up, has gained traction and popularity over the years. Henriette Louwerse, a senior lecturer in Dutch at the University of Sheffield, believes that the implicit criticism of “the holiness of traditions” is what resonates with people. It challenges the notion that traditions must always remain stagnant and unchanging, highlighting the beauty and adaptability of cultural practices. By embracing a playful and humorous approach to tradition, the Dutch are able to create a sense of identity that is both unique and inclusive.

Pancake Day vs. Dutch Pancake Day

It is important to note that Dutch Pancake Day is not to be confused with the Pancake Day celebrated in other Christian countries, commonly known as Shrove Tuesday. While the latter is observed on the day before the beginning of Lent and involves indulging in pancakes as a way to use up rich ingredients before the fasting period, Dutch Pancake Day is a separate and distinct celebration. The Dutch tradition adds a whimsical twist to the concept of Pancake Day, allowing for a lighthearted and joyous occasion that brings families together.


Dutch Pancake Day, with its tradition of wearing pancakes on the head, is a delightful and entertaining celebration that has captured the hearts of many in the Netherlands. What started as a comic strip by Jan Kruis has turned into a beloved custom, spreading laughter and silliness among families and communities. This quirky tradition not only showcases the Dutch sense of humor but also challenges the rigidity of traditions, allowing for cultural practices to evolve and adapt over time. So, the next time you find yourself in the Netherlands on November 29th, don’t forget to join in the fun and place a pancake on your head to wish everyone a happy and blessed Saint Pancake!

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