Yes, it’s that time of year again. The snow has (hopefully) melted, the daffodils have raised their tender heads out of the earth, and an unknown chicken has laid the perfect egg for conking.
My mom’s father brought the tradition of egg conking with him from back east, and we continue to exalt the winner in my brother and sisters’ houses today. Some families call to wish each other a happy Easter; mine calls to see who had the Champion Egg.
Conking takes a great deal of strategy. First, you must choose which eggs to decorate. As children, we would take each hard-boiled egg in our hands and judge its weight against the others. We’d hold it up to the light, looking for imperfections or abnormalities—knowing before conking it had to survive the next morning’s Easter egg hunt. Lastly, we went with our gut—which eggs really seemed to be winners?
We’d color with great care, believing the perfect combination of beauty and design might give us the Champion Egg. Maybe lavender with a crayon star design, or half orange and half blue (a nod to the Bronco’s) would give us the extra edge to take the title. After laying claim on our eggs, decorating them with care, and lovingly placing them back into the carton to dry, we went to bed hoping they wouldn’t crack under pressure.
If all your eggs made it safely through the Easter egg hunt, the next step was the difficult decision of which egg to separate from the nest. An unspoken rule made us share with an adult. Like the possibility of missing out on a winning lottery ticket, we quivered with nervousness while we handed over what could be a winner. I’d usually give my mom or dad the egg that I thought had a hairline fracture (even the adults balked at an obvious defect). If the adult won, you could bask in the backlight of their glory because you had chosen and decorated the egg. But the win would be bittersweet—you should’ve been the one with the reigning title; you should’ve held the egg over your head when the last shell cracked.
The Egg Conking Competition has no particular order. One person holds their hard-boiled egg still while the other “conks” it with their egg. This happens back and forth with everyone in the room until only one person has one end of their egg that isn’t cracked. There are a few people who try to get away with unorthodox holds—meaning they hold their egg too high, thus buffering the shot by the opponent and avoiding a crack. If someone calls fowl, others intervene. A great deal of discussion and banter go back and forth, “Shannon tried that last year, and we wouldn’t permit it.” “It’s clearly allowing sufficient space for a head-to-head conk.” “No, no, you have to lower your hold.” Usually, the pressure from the crowd averts attempts to cheat; no one wants to tarnish the Champion Egg.
Once it’s been determined that every egg has been conked, the winner is announced. That person maintains bragging rights until the next year. (But if you ask someone in July who the champion was, they usually can’t remember. Winning, like so many other things, gets surpassed by the tedium of everyday life.)
What traditions do you keep in your family?