Our medieval ancestors will never have known the joys of eating chocolate eggs as this tradition did not start until the 19th century. That’s not to say that they didn’t have fun during the Easter period; there were many games that children played that involved using eggs. Here are some of those games:
Egg tapping is rather like conkers except for the fact that you use eggs rather than conkers. The main aim of the game is to use your egg to tap your opponent’s egg in an attempt to break it without breaking your own egg. Egg durability is the key here. The eggs are hardboiled to avoid any sticky mess; however like many other games it has been subject to cheating with reports of eggs being filled with cement, alabaster and even marble – clearly a very competitive game! (Ed.: as a conker player in my youth, this sounds like enormous fun!!)
Much like egg tapping, egg rolling is a ‘does what it says on the tin’ game. The main point of the game is to roll an egg down a hill, the competitor who rolls the egg the furthest wins. In the medieval times eggs were covered in onion skins and boiled to give them a gold appearance. There is an old Lancashire legend that eggshells should be crushed carefully afterwards otherwise they might be stolen by witches to be used as boats. So, next time you’re walking up and down those hills remember to take your eggs with you!
Egg dancing is a traditional Easter game dating back to the Saxon times where eggs are laid on the ground or floor and the goal is to dance among them, damaging as few eggs as possible. Another form of egg dancing was a springtime game where the goal was to roll an egg out of a bowl while keeping within a chalk circle and then flip the bowl to cover the egg. What makes the game challenging is that this must be done with the feet, without touching the other objects placed on the floor. In medieval England egg dancing was known as hop egg, where – as you might expect – the dancing was more akin to hopping. It was most likely brought to England from Germany by the Saxons; potentially as early as the 5th century.
In medieval Britain there was an egg throwing festival that was held in the churches at Easter. The priest would give out one hardboiled egg which was tossed around the nave of the church and the choirboy who was holding the egg when the clock struck twelve would get to keep the egg.