Monk Tired of Doing All the Work for Monastery Easter Egg Hunt Just Because He the Only One Who Can Lay Eggs
The other monks need to start pulling their weight
As his monastery’s annual Easter egg hunt rapidly approached, the monk charged with laying all the eggs for the event stated that he was tired of bearing sole responsibility for egg-laying duties every year.
“I get that ‘tis Easter and everything — praise Jesus, etc. — but a monk can only lay so many eggs,” spake Brother Geldwin, crouched in his monk nest. “The abbott has really been riding me to pop these things out faster. He wants it to be our biggest Easter egg hunt yet. But for all of Lent, I’ve spent so much tyme laying eggs that I’ve barely had enough tyme to pray, fast, and do other monk shyt.
“The rest of the monks talk a big game about how much they love the Easter egg hunt, but none of them are willing to put in the work and pump out a dozen yolks on Easter morning.”
Brother Geldwin claims it is well within the other monks’ abilities to lay a few eggs if only they were to truly embrace the spirit of the holiday and push harder. Whilst the role of egg-layer is certainly the most painful and physiologically confusing one, the monks say it is more important for them to contribute in other ways.
“He’s not the only one who has to do his part. Painting the eggs in pretty pastel colours and getting drunk is tough, too,” spake Brother Drumwine, whilst delicately painting a hare inquisitor on an egg and sipping a flagon of ale. “Honestly, I just haven’t been in an egg-laying mood lately.”
Brother Geldwin’s eggs have been a hit amongst the youth, who much prefer them to the rabbit eggs that were eaten in years past. But as far as what’s contained inside, that’s a surprise that differs from egg to egg. The children will just have to wait until the hunt is over to see what special treats await them.
“Mineself cannot wait to feast upon these scrumptious Easter candies,” spake one youngling. “I shall bite into mine egg straight away and let those sweet monk-egg juices runneth down my chinnegans!”
Addendum: Ancient Easter Eggs
In 1290, King Edward I paid 18 pence to have 450 eggs boiled, dyed, and/or decorated in gold leaf, then presented to the royal household for Easter. This is the earliest mention of the Easter egg tradition in medieval England, but the practice as associated with Easter likely originated in Christian parts of Mesopotamia:
"…among the Christians of Mesopotamia on Easter Day, and forty days afterwards, during which time their children buy themselves as many eggs as they can, and stain them with a red colour in memory of the blood of Christ, shed as at that time of his Crucifixion. Some tinge them with green and yellow.1"
I don’t know what the green and yellow tinge was supposed to symbolize, but I have some theories.
The practice of coloring eggs and giving them as gifts likely far predates Christianity. Eggs had symbolic meaning among ancient “Egyptians, Persians, Gauls, Greeks, Romans, &c., among all of whom an egg was an emblem of the universe, the work of the supreme Divinity.” There is an Egyptian hieroglyph of an egg, which features in the names of goddesses. Archaeologists have found 60,000-year-old decorated ostrich eggs in Africa’s Kalahari desert, which they believe were used as water flasks.
In the Christian world, eggs were prohibited from being eaten during Lent, so recipes for imitation eggs appeared as early as the 15th century, made from things like almond paste or fish eggs. If we’re being honest, both recipes sound pretty gross. Luckily, there were other egg-free alternatives that were not prohibited during Lent, like getting drunk:
“In this time of Lent, when by the law and custom of the Church men fast, very few people abstain from excessive drinking: On the contrary, they go to the taverns and some imbibe and get drunk more than they do out of Lent, thinking and saying: ‘Fishes must swim.’”2
The various eggy traditions associated with Easter over the years have included “pace egg plays,” “egg rolling,” and some sort of confusing game where young boys hold painted hard-boiled eggs in their hands, slam them together to try to break the other boys’ shells, and refer to the winning egg as a “cock.”3 According to the Wikipedia page on egg hunts, “In South German folk traditions it was customary to add extra obstacles to the game by placing them into hard-to reach places among nettles or thorns,” which sounds like a very German thing to do.
There’s a 423-page book about Easter egg folklore called An Egg at Easter: A Folklore Study, by Venetia Newall. Alas, it is not available online or at my library, and I didn’t have enough time to order a copy before I started writing this. We’ll have to wait til next Easter to discover what mysteries lie within it.
That said, a 1971 New York Times review of the book does contain a few wonderful egg anecdotes:
“In China an Empress prayed for a male child. A swallow flew overhead and dropped an egg in her mouth; she became pregnant and produced a son.”
“Transylvanians believe that a husband should eat a black‐hen's egg as an aid to conception.”
“In Hungary conception is aided if the wife mixes egg white and a speck of yolk with her husband's blood, stuffs the mixture in a dead‐man's bone and buries it.”
And, of course, there's the ever-popular “Pace-Egger's Song”, sung on Easter:
Here’s two or three jolly boys, all of one mind,
We have come a-pace egging, and hope you’ll prove kind;
I hope you’ll prove kind, with your eggs and strong beer
And we’ll come no more near you until the next year.4
So I guess on Easter people would give out eggs and beer to wandering neighborhood children?
Anyway. Happy Easter. Now get off your computer and go swim, little fishes.
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John Brand, Observations on the Popular Antiquities of Great Britain, New York Public Library, https://hdl.handle.net/2027/nyp.33433075885388
“But the strength of the shell constitutes the chief glory of a pace egg, whose owner aspires only to the conquest of a rival youth. Holding his egg in his hand he challenges a companion to give blow for blow. One of the eggs is sure to be broken, and its shattered remains are the spoil of the conqueror: who is instantly invested with the title of “a cock of one, two, three,” &c. in proportion as it may have fractured his antagonist’s eggs in the conflict. A successful egg, in a contest with one which had previously gained honours, adds to its number the reckoning of its vanquished foe. An egg which is a “cock” of ten or a dozen, is frequently challenged. A modern pugilist would call this a set-to for the championship.” From William Hone, The Every-day Book and Table Book, Project Gutenberg.
Quoted in Brand.