Some of the highlights of the Calderdale year are the re-enactments of traditions with their roots in the distant past.
Luck talismans and other symbols may be found built into houses in the Calderdale area.
- Many of the old stone houses of the Borough have kept these features.
- They are folk beliefs relating to the protection of enclosed spaces and their tenants.
A number of pubs and inns have customs attached to them too. This includes the mayor-making ceremony at the Lord Nelson Inn at Luddenden.
For more about this, please see: Pubs and Inns.
The Pace Egg Play
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'.
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 about the Pace Egg play enter "Pace Egg" as a 'quick search' term in the online library catalogue:
Green grow the rushes o!
Early in September, the hill top villages around Calderdale will echo to the sound of clogs and bells. This is when the annual Rushbearing Festival takes place, Sowerby Bridge's largest and most prestigious event.
It is a custom that dates back centuries. Cold stone floors were strewn with rushes or straw. This was to help insulate churches and to protect the knees of worshippers. The newly cut rushes also provide a pleasant scent in the buildings.
The festival was revived in 1977 at the time of the Queen's Silver Jubilee. It has grown steadily since then.
Sixty men are needed to pull the mitre-shaped rushcart, which weighs 18cwt when loaded with the rushes. They wear white shirts, black trousers, panama hats and clogs. Ten brake men behind the cart need rubber soled clogs to control the cart on the downhill stretches.
The modern cart was built in 1984 and on the insurance documents is listed as a "muck cart"! It is thatched with 500 bundles of plaited rushes and rises 16 feet into the air.
The festival commences at St John's Church (Warley), where the cart is blessed.
Over two days, the rushcart, Morris dancers and musicians, covers nine miles. Visiting several villages (and hostelries!) along the way, it arrives at St Bartholomew's Church (Ripponden), on the Sunday afternoon.
For a list of materials in our Libraries, enter "Rushbearing" as a 'quick search' term in the online library catalogue: