An Easter Egg with a difference
As Easter approaches, a group of people dressed in strange but colourful costumes will be seen around the villages of Calderdale. They will be carrying on the ancient tradition of pace egging.
The Pace Egg Play finds its 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 also been suggestions that ‘pace’ may be a dialect form of the word ‘peace’ and 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.
With intriguing character names such as St George, The Slasher, Doctor, Fool, The Black Moroccan Prince, Hector and last, but not least Toss Pot, you may wonder what the play is all about!
On the surface, it may appear that the play has little to do with Easter, but 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, whilst 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 would have been 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”