News from Budock Vean

Cornish Easter Traditions

Pask Lowen onen hag oll! – Happy Easter one and all!

The celebration of annual festivals helps us mark the turning of the year. As a community they are an excuse to come together and to exchange gifts as well as giving us all something to look forward to. Easter, although an important Christian season for many of us, also coincides with the arrival of spring, which, after a long, dark and soggy winter, can feel like an important and welcome milestone!

View our 2024 Easter Time Offer at BV, where children under 11 stay FREE when sharing with 2 adults. Of course there’ll also be an Easter egg hunt in and around the gardens on Easter Sunday but there’s so much more going on too!

While some of us will be aware of Cornwall’s Christmas traditions we might not be so familiar with the region’s Easter celebrations and customs – many of which are as closely associated with the changing of the seasons, as they are with the resurrection of Christ. After all the name itself is derived from ‘Eostre’, a pagan goddess associated with fertility and rebirth.

Sadly many of our quirky Cornish customs and folk stories have been forgotten or fallen out of fashion in the past couple of centuries but revisiting them gives us a fascinating glimpse into the complex lives of the superstitious folk of the past. So, we are going to take a little look at some of those fascinating lost traditions as well as flagging up the events that you can get involved in during Easter this year!

Cornwall’s Ancient Easter Customs

On Holy Thursday, the day before Good Friday, about a hundred years ago, though it’s not clear when this probably ancient tradition began, the young people of Roche would walk to the Holy Well just outside their village and throw pins into the water. How those pins fell would determine whether they would be married in the coming year and who their lover would be.

Good Friday itself was a particular significant day in the calendar, it was said that it was the day that gardener’s should sow seeds if they wanted to ensure a fine harvest, it was the day that all the ravens in Cornwall hatched (?) and in Polperro it was the one day of the year that apprentices were allowed to return home to visit their families.

During Hocktide in Cornwall, that is the Monday and Tuesday following Easter Sunday, it was customary for debtors to pay the money they owed and vicars to collect donations for repairs to their churches. It was also the time for what was once Cornwall’s favourite sport – wrestling.

The 18th century poet Thomas Chatterton mentions the tradition in one of his poems:

“The Saxon warrior that did so entwine,
Like the nesh Byron and the eglantine,
Or Cornish wrestlers at a hocktide game.”

Another forgotten custom, and one of the oddest, took place in the small town of Lostwithiel each Easter Sunday and was carried out, according to the Cornish Guardian in 1903, with “barbaric splendour”.

On that day the freeholders of the town would gather and nominate one of their number to be the “mock prince”, this man would be dressed in a “sumptuous manner”, complete with crown and sceptre. He would then be mounted on a fine horse and paraded through the streets of Lostwithiel to the door of the parish church, here he was received by the curate and would hear Mass as if he were a royal person seated in state. After the service the mock prince would be taken to one of the houses in the town and the whole party would enjoy an enormous feast.

The last of these strange ceremonies appears to have been conducted in 1889 and no one seems to be able to explain the origins of the custom, although other towns in Cornwall still conduct ‘mock mayor’ celebrations to this day.

So, strange traditions of the past aside, what about events that you can join in with this Easter:

Helford River Trigging

29th March 2024

At low tide on Good Friday local people head for the muddy banks of the Helford River for a tradition known as trigging – collecting cockles! Ancient laws mean that this ad hoc harvest is only permitted on this one day each year and many local people turn out to bag themselves a free supper!

The term ‘trigging’ or ‘trig-picking’ is thought to come from the old Cornish colloquial word for shellfish, trig, which included mussels and oysters as well as cockles. In 1838 it was reported that upwards of 50 people went trigging on Good Friday that year, some of them travelling from as far away as 15 miles from the Helford.

Model Boat Racing, St Ives

29th March 2024

Each Good Friday for more than 100 years the people of St Ives have been racing models boats on the Consols Pond near the town. The event, which begins at 10.30am, attracts boating enthusiasts from far and wide and is a real fun, family occasion.

The custom is thought to date back far further, when superstitious fishing communities would place tiny boats out on the water as offerings to try and secure good catches and fewer storms for the coming year.

Dolly Dunking, Morvah

29th March 2024

The well known as Fenton Bebibell near Men an Tol in the parish of Morvah has a long association with ‘little people’ and on Good Friday children and their families bring their dolls, teddies and other toys to be ‘blessed’ or ‘baptised’ in its waters.

The event, which involves a walk across the moors to reach the isolated well, is organised by the Cornish Ancient Sites Protection Network and those wishing to take part should meet at the Men an Tol layby at 11am.

Making Revel Buns

Easter seems to be a time when we enjoy indulging our sweet tooth! But if you have had enough of chocolate eggs then why not try an old Cornish recipe – Revel Buns. Traditionally made using saffron and clotted cream they are a different take on the traditional Hot Cross bun.

You can find a recipe HERE.

Saffron has a long history in Cornwall and is first thought to have arrived on our shores around 600 years ago when the Cornish were trading their tin for spices that were arriving on ships coming from the exotic ports of the Mediterranean and beyond.

St Endellion Easter Music Festival

30th March – 7th April 2024

Now in its 51st year the Easter Festival at St Endellion is a celebration of classical, choral and orchestral music. Concerts held inside the stunning ancient parish church each evening, many of them by candle light which just adds to the incredible atmosphere.

Spring Flower Show, Falmouth

23rd – 24th March 2024

Each spring the main hall in the Princess Pavilion in Falmouth comes alive with a riot of colour and fragrance as it hosts the annual flower show. For 114 years exhibitors from across Cornwall have been coming to the town to display their best, brightest and rarest blooms.

Alongside the stems of daffodils, narcissus and tulips you can also enjoy displays of Easter bonnets, photography and vegetable animal sculptures.

The first Spring Flower Show in Falmouth was held in 1910 and was inaugurated by Queen Victoria’s daughter, Princess Helena. Then as now spring would reach Cornwall before the rest of the country and, in the early years of the show after the prizes had been given, the best flowers would be shipped northwards so that they could be enjoyed in homes up the line that were still stuck in winter.

Easter Egg Hunt, Godolphin

23rd March – 14th April 2024

There are Easter Egg Hunts planned on various days all across Cornwall but Godolphin is extending the event for the whole Easter season! So why not explore the gardens and woodlands of this beautiful and historic estate near Helston, while also keeping your eyes peeled for some chocolate treats!?