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IHOP plans to give away free flapjacks on National Pancake Day --- a.k.a. Feb. 5 this year

As breakfast gourmets know, Tuesday is National Pancake Day, and to mark this momentous occasion, the IHOP restaurant chain plans to dish up free flapjacks from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m.

The Feb. 5 giveaway is tied to the California-based chain’s efforts to support such institutions as Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. In return for a short stack of buttermilk pancakes, customers are asked to make a voluntary donation to children’s charities.

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Last year, its National Pancake Day efforts raised more $3 million, the chain said. But at IHOP, generosity isn’t just measured in dollars --- it’s also measured in pancakes stacked nearly 16 miles high. According to IHOP, 4 million pancakes were given away last year, and 4 million stacked pancakes would stand nearly 16 miles high.

Nationwide, the chain has roughly 1,565 restaurants, including about 20 in Massachusetts.

While this will be year eight for IHOP’s celebration of National Pancake Day, the company swears that this brand of feasting draws on centuries of tradition.

According to IHOP, the tradition dates back to Merry Old England and a time when folks took fasting during Lent very seriously. In those days, the consumption of dairy products during Lent was frowned up. So what was needed was an excuse to empty the larder of all the eggs, milk, and butter just before Lent. And that, says IHOP, was how Pancake Tuesday --- a.k.a. Shrove Tuesday --- came to pass.

Chris Reidy can be reached at reidy@globe.com.
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