An Easter Egg with a difference
As Easter approaches, a group of people dressed in strange, but colourful, costumes will be seen around Calderdale villages. They will be carrying on the ancient tradition of pace egging.
The Pace Egg Play has roots in Celtic, Egyptian and Syrian traditions and was once performed all over the country. It was revived in Calderdale during the 1930s.
The word ‘pace’ may be derived from the Latin ‘pasche’ meaning passion. Hence, the reason why the play is performed at Easter time. There have been suggestions that ‘pace’ may be a dialect form of the word ‘peace’. The play is sometimes known as the 'Peace Egg Play'.
Brightly coloured costumes are a feature of the play. Some of the characters wear scarlet tunics decorated with paper rosettes. Large helmets are worn. These have arches crossing from each corner which are decorated with tissue paper, bells and beads.
You may wonder what the play is all about, with intriguing character names, like:
- St George;
- The Slasher;
- The Black Moroccan Prince;
- and last, but not least Toss Pot!
On the surface, it may appear that the play has little to do with Easter. Although, it does contain strong elements of death and resurrection - a triumph of good over evil. St George battles against the Slasher and the Black Prince. While the Doctor tries his magical cures on the fallen heroes.
Toss Pot dresses in a comical fashion, although his character represents the devil. It is his duty to collect money from the onlookers. In days gone by, eggs were collected to ensure a good harvest in the summer months. As, the egg is a symbol of the continuity of life. In more recent times any proceeds are given to charity.
The play ends with the players singing the traditional Pace Egg Song. So, in the words of the play…"I’ll hope you remember ‘Tis Pace-Egging Time".
For more on the Pace Egg play tradition, see: Online library catalogue
Enter 'Pace Egg' as a 'quick search' term.