Eggs, Eggs, Easter Eggs
Tradition draws us to associate Easter with eggs, but like many traditions the reasons why are often lost. In our column all about Eggs, Eggs, Easter Eggs, we look at our favourite traditions, and few obscure ones to try!
1. Chocolate eggs:
As the supermarket shelves burst with chocolate eggs you could be forgiven for thinking them to be one of the oldest of Easter traditions. In fact, as traditions go, this is a relatively new one. Chocolate eggs were first manufactured in Britain by Fry’s in 1873. Chocolate eggs also appeared in France and Germany around the same time.
2. Decorative eggs:
Traditionally eggs weren’t eaten during the six weeks leading up to Easter, known as Lent. Any eggs laid during this time were saved and decorated, then given to children as gifts at Easter. Later people began painting wooden eggs with which to decorate houses for Easter. The tradition grew more extravagant when between 1885 and 1917 Tsar Alexander III commissioned jeweller Peter Carl Faberge to create an extravagant bejewelled Easter Eggs for his wife Maria Feodorovna. In total 65 eggs were produced. The most valuable of which are now worth as much as £20million.
3 Egg hunts:
The Easter egg hunt brings us to the tradition of the Easter Bunny. The idea of which can be traced back to the 17th century. If eggs are the potential for new life then the rabbit, known for breeding big litters, is a symbol of fertility – both of which bring joy and new life. Family Easter egg hunts have been popular since the late 19th century. Today many charities run Easter egg hunts, one of my favourite days out being the Cadbury Easter Egg Hunt with The National Trust.
4. Egg rolling:
Egg rolling races are held all over the world on Easter Monday. The most well-known being the children’s game held on the White House lawn, a tradition of almost 140 years. Here the egg, a symbol of new life, also represents the rock tomb from which Christ rose from the dead being rolled away. The idea of the game is straight forward, hard-boiled eggs are rolled and the first one to reach the finish line that hasn’t broken is the winner.
5. Egg jarping
Egg jarping is one of the more bizarre egg traditions at Easter, dating back to the early 1800s. Sometimes also called, egg dumping, the game is a competition where you try to smash your opponent’s hard-boiled egg with yours. The winner is the one whose egg remains intact. Egg jarping competitions are still held in the North East of England.
6. Pace egg plays
Although the name, Pace Egg Play may sound unfamiliar, its etymology links these traditional village plays firmly with the celebration of Easter. The word ‘pace’ from the old English word ‘pasch’ literally means ‘Easter’ and the plays always take on a rebirth theme in which St George enters battle while his fool, Old Tosspot collects gifts and money from the crowd. During battle one of the heroic character’s dies, in some versions it’s St. George, in others it’s a Turkish Knight called Bold Slasher, and is subsequent revival by a comic doctor.
The drama takes the form of a combat between the hero and villain, in which the hero is killed and brought to life, often by a quack doctor. The dramas were once widespread throughout England, but are now performed only in a handful of towns. Bury in Greater Manchester being one of them details of which can be found on the Bury Pace-Eggers website.
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