Old Fashioned Easter Games – Paas or Cracking the eggs (1831)

Paas, or Pasche.—

The first of these words (pronounced as if written pauce, rhyming with sauce), is the Dutch term for Easter-day. It answers to the pasche, or passover of the Hebrews, and most nations still give it this name, pasche, pask, paque. (. . . . .) By the term paas, however, our merry schoolboys in the Middle States (who cannot be supposed to be very deeply versed in theological etymology), understand neither more nor less than Easter-Monday, which they define thus: “the day for cracking eggs.”

Its origin is unknown to us, and it is believed to be peculiar to the United States. The game (if it be one) is played in the following manner :—

Both parties, we will suppose, are Old Fashioned Holidays | Children's Easter Gamesprepared for the contest, being already “supplied with the munitions of war;” say, a dozen eggs each, carefully selected and scientifically tested, by striking the butts and points (the big and little ends, against the front teeth, in order to be certain that the shells are hard, strong, thick, stout, and if possible,” uncrackable.”

The challenger then encloses an egg in one of his hands, so that no part of it is visible except the point (or butt, as the conditions may be), which does not protrude above the horizontal level of the circling thumb and fingers, but remains some distance below it, generally supported beneath by the palm of the other hand.

Holding it in this manner, he challenges his antagonist to hit it with the point or butt of another egg. The shell of one of them must, of course, yield to the force of the concussion, and the cracked egg becomes the prize of the victor. In this manner, hundreds of eggs are lost and won in a short time; and as the slight injury which they receive does not lessen their intrinsic value, the winnings are of some account to the victors.

The contest, as we have surveyed it thus far, is all fair. But, “poor human nature!” we are sometimes almost tempted to believe that the devil challenged Eve to gamble for the apple, there is such an inherent propensity in man (even in the comparative innocent state of childhood) to take advantage of his fellows. Artificial eggs, curiously made of wood, marble, and other hard substances, are frequently used with such address as completely to deceive the eye, and thus the unsuspecting party falls an easy prey to the artifice of his antagonist, and finds himself suddenly stripped of his capital, and put hors du combat, without being able to account for the misfortune.

But woe betide the juvenile sharper should the trick be detected! The scene exhibited on a certain race-course, between a certain prince and another jockey, would here be repeated on a smaller scale. Ten to one but an attempt would be made to crack something harder than eggs.

This custom probably owes its origin to the same propensity which impels boys to trials of skill and strength, to feats of activity, and to rivalries of all sorts in their sports and occupations.

Source: Festivals, games and amusements, Smith & Woodworth

Related Posts:

Index: Easter Throughout History

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