On Easter Eggs

Here’s something on Northumbrian Easter traditions in an extract from the blog Scranshums – see the full article at https://scranshums.com/2015/04/04/on-easter-eggs/

In the UK, decorating hard-boiled eggs was mainly popular in the North of England and south of Scotland, where they were called “pace-eggs” (or “peace-eggs”, “pash-eggs” and “paste-eggs”). This definitely existed by 1579, when the author of the Beehive of the Romish Church wrote that they were a silly superstition that should be discarded. They weren’t, and this still continues today, thanks in part to the Victorians who encouraged children to decorate eggs and helped the tradition spread across the whole country (their equivalent of something going viral, perhaps?). Traditionally, boiling the eggs with onion skins turned the eggs brown, and different design effects could be created by winding wool around an egg, or wrapping it in leaves. Nowadays I’ve been known to use felt-tip pens and Doctor Who stickers.

The fun didn’t/doesn’t end with decorating eggs, however. They’d then be used by children in various games, such as “jaapin” where you hold the egg in your fist, the pointy bit sticking out between your second and middle fingers, and then you smash it into your opponent’s pointy end. Winner is the one whose egg remains intact. “Boolin” is another custom which is still popularly practised, for example in my home town of Morpeth: lots of people gather in the park and bowl their eggs down a hill to see whose goes furthest and doesn’t break. One 1909 antiquarian article from Northumberland, quoted by Roud, mentions rolling the eggs up a hill, which is unusual to say the least. I am rubbish at this game, and try as I might I can’t find any decent strategies for winning.

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