How Easter Works

Egg Rolling and other Easter Activities

Easter egg roll Easter egg roll
Children roll eggs during the 140th annual Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House in 2018. The tradition of rolling colored eggs down the White House lawn was started by President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1878. Alex Wong/Getty Image

Held for more than 140 years, early egg rolling activities took place on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol. However, under President Rutherford Hayes, the event was moved to the South Lawn of the White House, where it is still held.

­While the children's games have changed over time, simply rolling a hard-boiled egg across the green lawns is still a high point of the day. Presidents and First Ladies and other celebrities have traditionally greeted the children, who, at the end of the day, receive collectible wooden eggs complete with the signatures of the President and ­First Lady.

Another i­nteresting custom: Some countries have pace egg rolling. Eggs are rolled downhill as a symbol of the stone being rolled away from the tomb where Jesus was laid. This became popular despite scholars' assertion that the stone over the tomb was actually rolled uphill!

The Easter Monday tradition of "Hare Pie Scramble and Bottle Kicking" in Hallaton, Leicestershire, England, is really quite intricate. To start, the ingredients of a hare pie include:

  • 4 pounds of flour
  • 2 pounds of lard
  • 2 hares
  • 3 pounds of onions
  • 7 pounds of potatoes
  • Seasoning

­The pie is cooked on Easter Monday, using a 20-inch square tin, at either Torch House, which belongs to Torch Trust for the Blind (previously Hallaton Convent), or at the Bewick Arms.

The pie is paraded in a procession through the village from the Fox Inn to the gate of St. Michael's Church. Immediately behind the pie in the procession are the three "bottles" that are used for the Bottle Kicking match. These are actually small barrels, about 14 inches high by 9 inches in diameter and weighing about 20 pounds. Two of these are brown in color and filled with about a gallon of ale each. The remaining "bottle" is left empty and is colored red and white.

The pie is distributed by the rector of St. Michael's Church to the crowd. Some of the pie is put into sacks and carried away with other processions through the village, ending at the top of Hare Pie bank. This is where the Bottle Kicking match takes place between Hallaton and the neighboring village of Medbourne. There is no limit to the number of competitors in the Bottle Kicking match.

The competitors arrange themselves in a circle at the top of the bank. The chairman of the Bottle Kicking match throws the first full "bottle" into the air and allows it to fall on the ground. This is repeated twice more. When the "bottle" lands on the ground the third time, it is "in play." What follows is a chaotic battle between the two teams to move the "bottle" toward their respective villages over their respective touchlines, which are between two separate streams at each end of Hare Pie bank, approximately three-quarters of a mile apart. There are numerous hedges, lanes, ditches and even barbed wire between the two touchlines.

Once the first score has been made, the whole process is repeated with the empty bottle. If the previous losing team effects a tie, the process is repeated with the final bottle. At the end of the match, both teams walk back to Hallaton, where the winning team drinks both bottles and the losing team has to watch!

It is believed that Hare Pie bank was previously a stowe, a place of pagan worship. The current chairman of the Bottle Kicking match would also be known as the Master of the Stowe. To get more information on this tradition, including an interesting peek at what the bottle-kicking match looks like, check out Hallaton: Bottle Kicking and Hare Pie Scramble.

For more information on Easter and related topics, check out the links below.

Last editorial update on Apr 18, 2019 11:36:46 am.

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