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Easter in Britain – 6 traditions

1. Easter parades parade

In the UK, many children build and decorate colourful paper bonnets at school before Easter, then join a local parade through their town or village on Easter Monday to show them off. New clothes at Easter are traditionally considered to be good luck.

queen2. Maundy Money

Every year, on the Thursday before Good Friday, the Queen hands out special purses of coins to elderly people who have worked in their community.

Leaders of Christian countries have handed out Maundy money, and performed other acts of public humility at Easter, since the fourth century. The Maundy Service mirrors the tale of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet – monarchs offered their subjects a foot bath and gifts of money and clothing well into the 15th century.



3. Hot Cross Buns

crossHot cross buns are spiced raisin buns traditionally eaten toasted with butter on Good Friday.

In the 19th century, a London widow hung a hot cross bun up for her sailor son at Easter, but he died at sea without returning. The widow then hung a bun up every year in his memory – the house, which became The Widow’s Son pub in Mile End, was known as the Bun House.

The current landlords continue the widow’s tradition, and every Good Friday members of the Royal Navy are invited to throw a bun into the net suspended above the bar.


sheep4. Kissing Friday

Until the 1940s, the Friday after Ash Wednesday was known in parts of the UK as “Kissing Friday”. On this day, schoolboys could demand a kiss from any girl they wanted without fear of rebuke – some boys even strung rope across the road and girls had to levy a kiss as a toll. And if she refused? The girl got pinched.

“Kissing Friday” was also celebrated it Leicestershire – but here it was called “Nippy Hug Day”, and adult men could demand kisses from women, and reward any refusal with a pinched bum.



5. Bottle kicking, Leicestershirebottle

Every Easter for the last 200 years, the villagers of Hallaton and neighbouring Medbourne have squared off across a field for the prize of a barrel (called a “bottle” here) of ale.

Each team kicks a bottle towards its village, hoping to cross the far stream before their rivals and win all the booze for themselves. Apparently, while the gouging of eyes is forbidden, practically every other dirty fighting trick is allowed, and broken bones are a regular occurrence.



egg6. Egg rolling, Lancashire

Every 1 April, Preston Council holds its annual Easter egg rolling race, where you roll your egg from the top of a local hill to see whose reaches the bottom first. The eggs rarely survive the journey intact, but – you know what they say – nothing tastes like victory feels.