The Unusual Tradition of Throwing Eggs Down Hills
There are all kinds of wonderful Easter traditions in Canada. While some more religious families put on their Sunday best and head off to their church for a morning mass, others paint eggs and enjoy a day with family. Of course there’s the main event, the egg hunt, where the younger kids spend their morning tracking down dozens of foil-wrapped chocolate eggs left behind by the Easter bunny. But other traditions have fallen by the wayside.
This weekend the Bunker is hosting the Easter Bunny himself – and that means plenty of Easter-themed fun out here in Debert! We’ll be having an egg hunt (of course!), egg colouring, an egg drop, and other Easter fun. And, if the weather holds, a good old-fashioned Egg Roll! Don’t forget to book your littles in for our morning activities (parents get in FREE!).
Also known as Pace-Egging, Easter egg rolls are a game traditionally played outside on Good Friday. You might be familiar with the annual White House egg roll in the USA, but where did the once-popular tradition come from?
Easter, Ostara, Eostre?
Although it’s one of the most important holidays in the Christian calendar, a lot of our non-religious traditions – egg decorating, egg hunting, the Easter Bunny – predate Christianity. The exact origins of a lot of these beloved activities are unclear. Some claim they come from an Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre, in celebration of her and the new fertility as the earth wakes up after a long winter sleep. This goes back to the 7th century, when a monk named Bede wrote about the old traditions of the Anglo-Saxons before the Roman conquest of England.
Some scholars argue Bede lived in a time when the Anglo-Saxon traditions were alive and, if not well, at least still kicking. So it makes sense that he could have learned all about the old traditions of the land. However, his is the only source that talks about this goddess Eostre, so it’s hard to say if she was real or not. Bede might have just… made her up.
In any case, eggs and bunnies are certainly common symbols of fertility, and popular signs of spring across the world. Whether they come to us through Eostre or through other means, they stuck!
One theory as to why eggs are so important to this spring holiday, aside from their fertility symbolism, is that they were an important food source forbidden during the Lent fast. Lent is a period of fasting during the Christian religious calendar when certain denominations abstain from specific foods. Eggs are sometimes among those foods that can not be eaten. But, well, the chickens keep on laying. So, at the end of Lent, you have a lot of eggs to do something with before they start going bad. Might as well play with and decorate them!
Decorated Easter eggs come in all kinds of beautiful, traditional colours and patterns.
From Ukranian wax-resist pysanka…
…to this beautiful perforated creation from Germany…
…to this beautiful modern washi paper egg from Japan.
In Britain it is traditional to make “pace eggs,” dyed with onion skins wrapped over leaves to create golden eggs with foliage patterns.
The name “pace eggs” might sound funny to North American ears, but the “pace” comes from “passover.” The end of Lent. So, Easter!
Although they have largely been replaced by modern chocolate eggs and egg hunts, there are a few regions, such as Lancashire, which still celebrate spring or Easter or Passover with some pace egg based fun.
Pace-egg plays are a tradition emerging out of medieval mystery plays. Similar to Christmas Pantomimes, Page-egg plays are a kind of folk play that follow a standard plot line. Two characters get into an argument, one character kills the other, the dead character is revived by a doctor, everybody has a good time.
The game pace-egg is slightly different. Players find a grassy hill, bring in their decorated pace eggs, and roll them down the hill. The object of the game is to be the player whose egg rolls the farthest down the hill – and doesn’t break.
It’s Enter the Bunker’s first Easter, so this year we’ve invited the Easter Bunny to come out to the bunker. There will be an egg hunt (of course), and some egg decorating, and an egg drop. And with the top of the bunker giving us the perfect grassy hill, we will be holding an egg roll!
Eggs will be provided, but if you’re feeling festive, why not try making your own pace eggs to roll down the grassy hill?
To Make Pace Eggs...
The lovely amber of traditional pace eggs is beautiful on its own, but if you’d rather have some more colourful eggs, you can try a number of different natural food-based dyes, right in your own kitchen!
To make your own colourful pace eggs:
– Boil dye ingredients in a pint of water, then simmer for 30+ minutes (depending on your desired intensity)
– Allow water to cool to room temperature
– Pour into a mason jar for easy dipping
– Add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar to help the dye adhere to the egg shell
– If you want some pretty flower patterns, stick some fresh flowers or leaves to your eggs and secure with cheesecloth or some old pantyhose
– Drop a few boiled eggs into your jars and… wait!
– Enjoy your lovely coloured eggs – maybe with a little salt and pepper
– Amber. The traditional colour for page eggs is a lovely rich amber created by wrapping onion skins around the eggs, sealing it with cheese cloth (or aluminum foil, or pantyhose) and boiling for 5-10 minutes.
– Pale yellow. A few tablespoons of turmeric creates a buttery golden yellow. By soaking the eggs for longer, you can increase the richness of the colour.
– Blue. Boil a cup and a half of red cabbage (maybe open a window – it will smell). Soak anywhere from 30 minutes for a robin’s egg blue, to overnight (we recommend in the fridge) for a deep royal blue.
– Red. Beets are great for red tones. Use a cup and a half and soak for over half an hour for a deep crimson colour. If you’re partial to pinks, try soaking for just a few minutes and see how the eggs turn out. Experiment!
– Green. Combine a full turmeric soak with a quick, five minute dip in some cabbage dye for a pretty green.
See you this Saturday for some Easter fun!
Join us for an egg hunt, egg colouring, the Great Bates Egg Drop, and more! At the Debert Diefenbunker, this Saturday, April 20th 2019.
We have a Very Special Guest visiting who your kids won’t want to miss…