So Easter is upon us again and you can celebrate with religious festivals or eating far too much chocolate. But what things did your ancestors get up to? Well you may be pleases to hear that the UK has a proud tradition of doing some really weird things over Easter.
Well if your ancestors were from Yorkshire they may have taken part in the World Coal Carrying Championship. In this event held in the Yorkshire town of Ossett a sack of coal weighing 1 hundredweight or 50 kg for men and 20 kg for women has to be carried from the Royal Oak pub to the maypole in Gawsworth, a distance of just over 1000 meters, as fast as possible. This event has been held since 1963.
Your Leicestershire ancestors may have taken part in the ancient art of bottle kicking. The first mention of this event is in the 1770’s. In the event the villages of Hallaton and Medbourne fight over three barrels of beer. Each side has to try and get the barrels to their village in a rule free contest that usually end up in blood and pain for the contestants after several hours, but it’s OK as the villages share the beer!
What about in Lancashire well you ancestors may have taken place in Nutters Dance. This is similar to Morris Dancing but the men where black and white costumes and have dirty faces. So any ancestors from the town of Baccup may have done this on Easter Saturday. In fact any ancestors from a more rural community may have taken part in Morris Dancing throughout the country. These dances have been taking place since the 1400’s and involve a group of usually me dancing to music fiddle music accompanied by a drum. The men where white with brightly coloured ribbons tied to them and bells on their legs. They carry hankie or clubs. Some believe the dances are fertility dances to encourage the crops to grow. These days the dances are usually done outside pubs and involve drinking much beer in rural villages in England but there are now sides (the name for a group of morris men) throughout the world.
Ancestors who lived near Smithfield in London may have taken part in the practice of the widow’s charity. It was in effect a form of helping the poor. People would place 21 sixpences (a sixpence was about 2.5 pence so in total is about 50p) on to the tombs in the grave yard. This money was then distributed to 21 poor widows of the parish. Your ancestors could have been the givers or the receivers.
My personal favourite is the ancient art of egg rolling. In this people stand at the top of a hill and roll their eggs down a hill. The first to the bottom wins. This is done throughout the UK but in particular in Preston, Lancashire. In the Bedfordshire town of Dunstable they use oranges instead of eggs. I suppose an orange would survive better than an egg.
Each town or village probably had some sort of tradition they carried out. Some may have distributed relief to the poor, others may have had festivals and plays. In reality Easter, aside from the religious significance meant that winter had lost its grip on the land and new life began to spring up. Easter became a time for celebration as the days got longer and warmer. The harsh conditions were over, food was going to become more plentiful and the people had a reason to look forward to the summer to come.
So however you spend Easter, be it with an egg hunt, a bonnet competition, religious practices or just eating far too much chocolate until you feel sick have fun!
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!