Skipping Day in Scarborough

Skipping Day in Scarborough – a family tradition

Skipping Day in Scarborough is an annual tradition anyone who grew up in the town will tell you about.

Every year we would get the afternoon off school on Shrove Tuesday and head down to the seafront with our long skipping ropes. The road is closed off to traffic and families spend time playing various skipping games.

Like many childhood traditions, the origins of it were pretty fuzzy to me. So not knowing any different, I honestly assumed everyone in the country did the same.

When I arrived at university I quickly earned the nickname Sandra Dee, as I was always dropping myself in it with “uncool” observations about life. So imagine my new friends’ delight when I innocently asked whether we’d be partaking in Skipping Day!

Obviously I have never lived this comment down and to this day jokes are made at my expense about it.

The origins of Skipping Day

I have since discovered a couple of different theories about the origins of Skipping Day. Some believe it began with local fishermen sorting their ropes and nets and giving the damaged ones to children. Others say it originated from an older tradition known as Ball Day. This was a public holiday when servants would play games on the foreshore and children would take their ropes. Either way, it is widely agreed that the tradition has been going for more than 100 years.

Whatever its origin, I love that something which began so long ago is maintained and loved just as much today.

Skipping Day is often something I think about when I’m travelling, because one of my favourite things to do is to take part in different festivals. I think you learn so much about other cultures by experiencing special events and I often plan trips around them.

I’ve partied at the Miss Colombia Festival in Cartagena; got soaked at the Songkran Festival in Thailand; experienced the gorgeous cherry blossom illuminations at Matsumoto Castle in Japan and stood open-mouthed at the sheer craziness of Lewes Bonfire Night celebrations. Often when you’re getting soaked by a passerby with a bucket of water or being covered in red paint by a group of school kids, you’ll look at the other tourists around you and ask: “Could you ever imagine this happening back at home?”

So I think it’s nice sometimes to remember the traditions which we do celebrate. Some of which may seem so normal to us, but would probably be somewhat strange to other people.

My memories of Skipping Day

As kids we absolutely loved Skipping Day. You got the afternoon off school for starters, so what’s not to like?

When I was five there was a photograph of me in our local paper, The Scarborough Evening News, skipping while my granny and her friend turned the rope. Unfortunately I was wearing a ‘trendy’ puffa jacket at the time, so it’s definitely not the most flattering photo! But I still have that article because to me it sums up what Skipping Day is all about: people of all ages getting caught up in the excitement of a special day.

I even remember my granny and her friend having a go at jumping the rope, teaching me the important lesson that no matter how old you are, you can always be a kid at heart.

Continuing the tradition

One of the things I really hope to instil in my little adventurer is a love of travel. I love taking her to new places and allowing her to experience different cultures. But I also want her to enjoy some of the traditions I grew up with, so that one day they’ll become her special memories too.

That’s why last year I took her to Scarborough to take part in her first Skipping Day with her grandparents.
The day began with Pancake Races in the town centre, which I think is a relatively new addition to the day. Hosted by the local radio station, teams of local businesses completed an obstacle course while flipping pancakes in frying pans.
Pancake Day races in Scarborough
It was so funny to watch, as dinosaurs, ketchup bottles and even The Great British Bake Off team competed to win first place. My little adventurer was totally mesmerised by it. 
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I also loved that there was a guy next to me from Japan who was on a work trip. He’d been brought along by a colleague and had a ‘what on earth is going on?’ look on his face. 
After the races we walked down to the seafront with our skipping rope. We had such a fun afternoon, attempting to play various skipping games, bumping into people we know and, of course, eating pancakes.
Skipping Day pancakes
For me, it was really special to be able to take my little adventurer back to experience a day I used to love when I was her age.
So you might call it Pancake Day, but to those of us who grew up in a Yorkshire seaside town called Scarborough, no matter where we are in the world, it will always be Skipping Day to us!
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