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British Life & Culture

Special Events and Celebrations

by Mandy Barrow

 
 
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Why do we have eggs at Easter?
Woodlands Junior School is in the south-east corner of England

Easter basketEggs are a forbidden food during Lent, making them a welcome return to the menu on Easter Day.

eggWhy do we give eggs at Easter?

Easter is a Christian festival. For Christians the custom of giving eggs at Easter celebrates new life. Christians remember that Jesus, after dying on the cross, rose from the dead. They believe that, through his resurrection, Jesus defeated death and sin and offers people the promise of eternal life if they follow his teachings.

egg What were the first Easter eggs like?

The first eggs given at Easter were birds eggs. These eggs were painted in bright colours to give them further meaning as a gift. We still paint bird eggs today but usually only chicken eggs.

Easter bunnyAn Anglo-Saxon legend - the Easter bunny and eggs

An Anglo-Saxon legend tells how the Saxon goddess Eostre found a wounded bird and transformed it into a hare, so that it could survive the Winter. The hare found it could lay eggs, so it decorated these each Spring and left them as offering to the goddess.

Easter Egg Customs

In the UK, we have many Easter Customs involving eggs:

egg Pace Egging

What are Pace Eggs?

Pace Eggs are hard boiled eggs with patterned shells, they are traditional in northern parts of England at Easter, with local variants in the name, such as Paste Eggs.

Where does the name Pace Egg come from?

The name is derived from Pesach (Passover).

The design

The background colour is provided by onion skins with designs created by leaves and flowers placed next to the shell.

All kinds of fun are had with the hard-boiled decorated pace eggs.

Origins of Colouring Eggs at Easter
Decorating and colouring eggs for Easter was a common custom in England in the middle ages. Eggs were brightly coloured to mimic the new, fresh colours of spring. The practice of decorating eggs was made even more famous by King Edward I of England who ordered 450 eggs to be gold-leafed and coloured for Easter gifts in 1290.


egg Egg rolling

Egg rolling is very popular in England and is an Easter Monday sport. Hard-boiled eggs are rolled down a hill.

Customs differ from place to place. The winner's egg may be the one that rolls the farthest, survives the most rolls, or is rolled between two pegs.

"I was brought up to believe that egg rolling represented the rolling of the stone from the tomb of Jesus."
Pete from Lancashire, England

egg Egg Jarping (Egg Tapping)

Another activity that takes place on Easter Day is the playing of a game with the eggs known as "jarping", It's a bit like playing conkers, with players tapping their opponents' eggs until one breaks. The winner goes through to the next round, and so on until there is only one egg left unbroken. copyright of projectbritain.com

A good hit by a jarper is called a "dunch". The game is popular in County Durham, where it is played on Easter Sunday.

"In Cumbria, it is traditional to have 'jarping', except we call it ' egg dumping'. There are strict rules surrounding the competitions, which take place in houses and pubs. Some larger egg dumps can take all day or evening, and quite a bit of money can change hands. 

In our family, our extended family gather on Easter Sunday to have an egg dumping competition. It gets very competitive, with friendly rivalry between different families."

Judith Smith

Read about Easter Day in the UK next page

Where does the name "Easter" come from?

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Woodlands Junior School is in the south-east corner of England