This week the prompt on Sunday Scribblings is 'I just don't get it'. There are many strange traditions associated with the Easter holiday in England. These are just a few with an explanation of their origins in order to help you to help you 'get it'!
On Good Friday sailors used to take a hot cross bun to sea as it was thought this would prevent sea sickness throughout the next year. In the early nineteenth century, a sailors mother baked her son a bun, but he was drowned the previous day, so she took it to a pub in Bromley by Bow in the east end of London where it remained. And on each Good Friday since, a new bun has been added to the collection, most of which hang from the ceiling.
On Easter Saturday the annual Nutter Dance takes place in Lancashire. The 'Nut Dance' is performed by dancers who black their faces to resemble coal miners. Each dancer wears wooden discs or 'nuts' on his hands, knees and belt. During the dance the discs which are made of maple wood are struck together in time to the music. The name Coconuts was given to the discs, probably, since they resembled the coconut shell knee protectors used by miners crawling along narrow seams in the mines.
Their usual accompaniment is the English concertina but for Easter Saturday a silver band is used. The music like the dance steps has been handed down over the years. Every year no matter what the weather they gather at the Travellers Rest Pub on the Rochdale to Bacup road and dance their way through the streets calling at every hostelry on route.
A tradition that has endured is to make Paste Eggs which are named after Pesach or Passover. Eggs are wrapped in onion skin then hard boiled resulting in a colourful pattern appearing on the skin said to signify rebirth or spring.
These eggs are used in villages all over the country in Egg Rolling competition on Easter Sunday when they are rolled down hill. The winner is the contestant whose egg survived the most descents undamaged.
Egg Jarping is still popular. This is a game similar to conkers where your egg is taped against your rival’s egg. The one whose egg cracks drops out and the victor continues until, all the other eggs are broken.
Although having no religious significance, the Monday after Easter is a holiday in England when the first big outdoor events of the year start. One of the most famous is the Hare Pie Scramble and Bottle Kicking which takes place between the villages of Hallaton and Medbourne.
The day starts with the blessing of a hare pie which is then broken up and thrown to the crowd. Then three barrels of ale are given to the two teams and the object is to run with them until all three are in one or other of the villages.
Up to 2000 people take part in this unruly game which is said to be the inspiration behind the sport of Rugby, after its founder witnessed the spectacle before returning to Rugby School after the Easter holiday.
On the Tuesday after Easter the Hocktide Festival takes place in Hungerford. It dates back to the 14th century when the commoners were granted the right of free grazing and fishing. The town crier blows his horn and calls together the Hocktide Court in the town hall. There, all 'commoners' pay a ‘fine’ to ensure that their rights continue. While the court sits, Tutti-Fruiti men with florally decorated poles are led through the streets by the Orange-Man to collect kisses from all the ladies resident in the High Street. They receive an orange in return.
They are just some of the weird and wonderful things that go on at Eastertide in England. Long may they continue.