Celebrating Easter and looking back at some of our more unusual events and traditions celebrated in Yorkshire.
1. The World Coal Carrying Championships, Ossett
Every Easter Monday, the village of Gawthorpe near Ossett, West Yorkshire, holds the annual World Coal Carrying Championships. This event has been held for many years, first taking place in 1963 and harking back to Yorkshire’s coal mining industry. This event sees men and women race the streets of Gawthorpe carrying huge sacks of coal in an attempt to be the first one to cross the finish line. The Men’s Veterans Race race takes place first, followed by a women’s race and then two main men’s races, with men carrying 50 kg of coal and women 20kg.
2. The Pace Egg Play, Heptonstall
The Pace Egg Plays are medieval mystery plays which are long-standing Easter traditions in rural English culture.
This was once an Easter tradition all over England, but it is now only practiced in a few select areas, particularly Lancashire and West Yorkshire. In Heptonstall it involves a traditional mumming play, which is a folk play performed by a troupe of amateur actors, usually known as mummers organisers. It is usually performed in Weavers Square.
3. Planting the Penny Hedge, Whitby
Although this traditional event does not take place on Easter weekend, its roots are still embedded in Easter culture and traditions. Every year on the eve of Ascension Day, the date of which was in fact decided by the Synod of Whitby in the year 664, the Ceremony of the Horngarth or Planting of the Penny Hedge occurs. Exactly 40 days after Easter, this event takes place in Whitby’s upper harbour, located on the east bank of the River Esk, and is supervised by the Bailiff of the Manor of Fyling. The hedge itself is made up of nine upright hazel stakes which are driven into the mud with an ancient mallet. Nine pliant branches, also known as ‘yethers’ or pliant branches are used for intertwining, and the hedge is secured at each end with ‘strout-stowers’. The event takes place on the eve of Ascension Day, as this ensures that the tide is always low at the time of planting, and Ascension Day itself is an event related to Easter. The legend dates back to 1159, when the Abbot of Whitby imposed a penance on three l
4. Egg rolling
The county possesses its fair share of hills to roll hard-boiled eggs down. There are often Easter egg rolling events at Scampston Hall near Malton and Fountains Abbey near Ripon.