Easter is nearly here again, yippee! And if you’re looking for inspiration on where and how to spend your long Easter weekend, read on. We’ve compiled a round-up of the quirkiest events taking place around the UK, to give you some alternative Easter ideas. We bring you an eclectic selection of the best traditional customs and oddest contests, from coal carrying races and marbles championships to chair lifting and pace egging. So, what are you waiting for?
Get a customary lift in Greenwich
Easter Monday Chair Lifting is an old custom which was carried out all over Britain until about a hundred years ago. This unusual custom fizzled out after the Church (rather mistakenly) encouraged its discontinuance, stating that it was a parody of Christ’s rising. In fact chair lifting is much, much older and probably originated as a fertility ritual.
And yes, chair lifting is exactly as it sounds, with ladies being elevated on ‘Eostre’s Throne of Flowers’. If you’re wondering who Eostre is, she’s the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of Spring and Fertility. Her name still lingers in the word Easter – her holiday.
Today, the Blackheath Morris Men continue this ancient custom in Greenwich on Easter Monday. If you want to catch them, they’ll be calling at Cutty Sark Gardens, the Old Royal Naval College and Greenwich Market.
Play some competitive marbles
Did you know, Easter is the traditional time for many marbles contests? One of the most famous and long-running is the British and World Marbles Championship in Sussex. In fact, Tinsley Green in West Sussex is known as the home of marbles and the game has been played at the Greyhound pub since the game’s revival in 1932.
The Marbles Championship was a focal point of village life back then and so it continues to be today. In the 1940s an International Championship was introduced, which still attracts players from countries including France, Germany and Japan. Now, after a Covid-induced break, the championships are back on Good Friday!
Find a new use for coal in Yorkshire
Fancy a more hefty challenge this Easter? The 59th World Coal Carrying Championships takes place in Gawthorpe, West Yorkshire, with men’s, women’s and children’s races. Men carry 50kg sacks of coal and women 20kg. Thankfully, children get off more lightly!
The adult races start from the Royal Oak public house on Owl Lane in Ossett and continue for a distance of 1012 metres to the finish line at the Maypole Green in Gawthorpe village. If you’re up for the challenge, you’ll need to enter in advance of Easter Monday.
Discover Hallaton’s peculiar parade and bizarre game
Every Easter Monday, the village of Hallaton plays host to a unique set of customs. There’s a parade, a scramble for pie and a game of Bottle Kicking. It starts with a parade through the villages of Medbourne and Hallaton, with a large hare pie and three kegs. The local vicar blesses the pie before it’s thrown out to the crowd for a ‘scramble’. This pie parade, according to local legend, is carried out to commemorate a hare saving two ladies from a raging bull.
Next up is the Bottle Kicking. This is a strenuous game similar to rugby, but with far fewer rules. It can be traced back over 200 years but is thought to be much older. The competition begins with a wooden dummy keg or ‘bottle’ being tossed into the air. Teams then try to move the bottle across two streams, one mile (1.6 km) apart, by any means possible. Like many events, 2022 is the first time they’ve been able to go ahead due to the pandemic. So, they’re likely to be lively.
Grab a pint and catch a traditional Easter play
Pace-Egging is an old Easter begging custom which is still carried out in parts of northern England. And Middleton’s Pace Egging play is still going strong. After a break because of the pandemic, it’s back touring the local pubs this Easter.
Traditionally, the entertainment was offered by poor villagers in exchange for alms. Today, the custom generally involves a lot of singing, dancing and drinking tours around the local pubs. And the tour includes The Olde Boar’s Head, one of England’s oldest pubs. The play involves heroes, villains and plenty of eccentricity. This revelry is followed by the more sedate activity of egg rolling on church hill.
Watch ‘Uppies & Downies’ battle it out
At Workington in Cumbria, three Uppies and Downies matches are usually held every Easter, raising money for various local charities. There are few rules to this rough ball game, but object is to ‘hail the ball’ (throw it up in the air three times) at the opposing team’s goal. The Downies goal is a capstan at the town’s harbour, while the Uppies is the gates of Workington Hall Parklands.
The game is thought to originate from the rivalry between the seafarers around the marsh and the colliers of the top end of the tow. Three special Uppies and Downies balls are handmade every year for the occasion. And traditionally, the owner of nearby Curwen Hall awards a sovereign to the player who successfully hails the ball. The town even has a pair of statues depicting the Easter event, created by local sculptor Colin Telfer. One stands outside Workington Hall, the other at the harbour.
After a two-year break, the game is back this year with special Jubilee balls being made for this traditional quirky event.
Roll out the barrel in Hedley
Hedley Barrel Race is run every Easter Monday as part of their Easter Beer & Food Festival. It’s organised by local pub, The Feathers Inn. The barrel race sees competitors carrying an empty nine-gallon beer barrel, over a 1.5 mile course. And the lucky victors are rewarded with a keg of beer!
But that’s not all. In the afternoon there’s also be some traditional (and family-friendly) egg jarping taking place. This North East tradition is a bit like the game of conkers but with hard boiled eggs. It’s a knock-out tournament where eggs are tapped against one another. If your egg cracks, you’re out!
Cheer on The Boggmen in Great Finborough
The Race of the Boggmen is a key part of village life in Great Finborough. On Easter Monday each year there is a battle between the villages of Haughley and Great Finborough.
The idea of the race comes from a time when workers from Boyton Hall were in the pub, rather than at work. Workers were hired from the neighbouring village of Haughley to replace them. The original workers were up in arms at this. So, the employer threw the work contract up in the air and said that the first team of workers to step over the threshold of the pub, holding the contract, could have the job.
And that’s why today’s race sees participants race across the Suffolk countryside from Boyton Hall to The Chestnut Horse pub. The first team to return to the pub with the leather scroll, known as ‘The Contract’, wins.
Take your dog on an Easter Treasure Hunt
Head over to Margate on Good Friday to enjoy an Easter Treasure Hunt for Dogs. Pet brand Hiro+Wolf have teamed up with Scrumbles to host this fun event in aid of The Retreat Animal Rescue.
There are prizes for the first dog and owner to complete the challenges, as well as prizes for the best fancy dress and best photo. It costs £3 to take part and every dog gets a treat!
Fancy dress car bonnets in Bexhill-on-Sea
Bexhill-on-Sea isn’t content with an ordinary Easter Bonnet Parade. Nope, as well as adults and children dressing up, the seaside town also sees classic car bonnets being decorated too. Head along the Promenade on Easter Sunday morning to see the cars and their owners vying for the ‘best dressed’ prize! Hopefully, there’ll be about 40 cars on display this year.
And that’s it! As Covid-19 is still circulating around the UK, do stay safe and check with event websites for updates before heading out for the day. If you’re looking for more quirky Spring events to enjoy, head over this way…