Another Easter Day has passed through - and  it’s turned out to be a highly memorable one for me and my family.
It was good to see so many people out in the Easter Day sunshine to roll their eggs down Penshaw Hill this afternoon...

Until quite recently, it had been a decades-old tradition for us to gather at Penshaw Hill on Easter afternoon - along with dozens of other folk - to roll ‘paste eggs’ down its lumpy slopes.  But then, for reasons none of us is really sure about, the tradition faded and seemed to have died out in our family about (we reckon) 7 or 8 years ago.

This year, however, my niece Anna and her husband Mike decided they wanted to revive it.  And such are the vividly happy memories that each of us has of this hallowed tradition that everyone immediately agreed that it would be a sensationally good idea to crank it up again.

And that’s what happened today.

The eggs are not made of paste, of course; that’s a corruption of paschal, ‘passiontide’.  They’re real eggs, hard-boiled with onion skins wrapped round them to give them a lovely, mottled-brown appearance.  The skins of red onions make them look particularly striking - deeply, darkly crimson and luscious.

This is how it works.  Or at least, this is how it works in our case.

We don’t use the main bulk of Penshaw Hill to roll the Robinson eggs.  We use the gentler rises and falls of the old quarry area immediately to the east.  Once there, we claim the territory we’ve used for as long as I can remember and the assembled Robinsons divide into two groups - one at the top of the slope (the ‘hoyers’) and one at the bottom (the ‘keppers’) and Part One of the ceremony begins.

One by one, eggs are hoyed down the slope and kepped at the bottom (if the keppers are sufficiently skilled).  The two groups swap places when half the eggs have been rolled.

Eggs that make it to the bottom with their shells intact are stored safely for Part Two of the ceremony.  The others are kept, too; they are the first to be eaten later.

Near our slope is a small circle of bumps in the ground and this is the site of the second part of the ceremony:  jarping.

We each choose a bump to stand on and an egg from the intact pile.  Then the oldest person there stands in the middle of the circle and chooses whose egg to jarp with.

Jarping is either a matter of consummate skill or pure luck, usually depending on whose egg cracks.  Almost totally concealing your egg inside your fist seems to work a lot of the time, but is no guarantee against an operator like my brother - our Barry - who seems to have an uncanny, even paranormal, influence over the staying power of his egg’s shell.  Either that or he cheats.

The jarping round continues until there are no intact eggs left.  The Supreme Champion is the person who cracked the most shells with his/her eggs.  Today - as on so many other Easter Days - that person was our Barry.
The Supreme Champion, surrounded by his adoring family - and two dogs.

I want to put it on record that I do not resent him for this.  I bear neither grudges nor suspicions of foul play.  I am perfectly certain that he wins because of some innate skill he has honed over the decades and not because he overtrains or has developed an underhand ability somehow to mesmerise his miserable victims into relaxing their egg-grips.

In any case, nothing can ever be proved either way because he always makes sure that all the eggs are eaten when the ceremony ends and brings salt and salad cream to make sure of the matter.

Anna's simnel cake, decorated with three marzipan eggs and a crouching rabbit - 'not to scale', as Anna helpfully pointed out.

And today’s revival of our family tradition was made all the more special because my niece, Anna, cooked a simnel cake.  I’ve never tasted one before.  It was utterly, completely and totally scrummy.

Yes, another Easter Day passing through…
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It's worth noting that egg-rolling at the beginning of Spring takes place at many other places in Britain and elsewhere in Europe - specially in Scandinavia.  It pre-dates Christianity by unknown centuries and has no demonstrable links with God at all.

Even the date of Easter Day itself is calculated in an ungodly, surprisingly secular, way.  It falls on the first Sunday after the first Saturday after the first full moon after March 21.  Unless the full moon falls on March 21 itself, in which case Easter Day is the day immediately afterwards.

No mention of God there...
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1 comment:

Val said...

Lovely post about family tradition.
When I lived in London I won a prize in a decorated egg competition with an egg boiled wrapped in onion skins. They'd obviously never seen anything as exotic down there.