Easter egg

Easter egg is one of the most important symbols of Easter. Ancient Egyptians believed that an egg is directly related to the most powerful deity, the Sun. In Ancient Rome there were races held on an oval track. Winners got eggs as prizes. The most famous Finnish epic "Kalevala" contains claims that egg was essential for the creation of the world.

For Christians Easter egg symbolizes renewal of life, resurrection. In German town of Worms a grave of a girl from the 4th century was found. Among other things the grave included two coloured goose eggs with some carvings on their shell. It is believed that these eggs are the oldest decorated eggs ever found. In medieval Europe people did not eat eggs during Lent. They were eaten as part of Easter meals. Children got them as Easter present.

Dark red Easter eggs, representing blood of Christ, are made by Orthodox Christians in Greece and Middle East. In some parts of Germany and Austria green eggs are made on Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday). Germans also used to exchange green eggs on Holy Thursday.

In Germany people empty the egg content. Such hollow egg shells are then hung of trees or shrubs. They stay there during whole Easter week. Next German tradition does not exist anymore. It is definitely bizarre. In late 19th century some German regions used Easter eggs as some sort of birth certificate. Person's name and date of birth were cut in an egg shell with a sharp tool. Such eggs were completely legal if you had to identify yourself.

Hollow eggs are used in Armenia too. Armenian paint different religious motifs like for example Christ or Virgin Mary on them. In Poland there was a tradition where a girl used to send an Easter egg to her boyfriend. People in Poland call their Easter eggs "pisankas." First an egg is dipped in wax. Such egg is then carved and after that dyed. Easter eggs are exchanged between family members on Easter Saturday.

In Lithuania Easter eggs are painted by Easter Bunnies. They put them on a small cart pulled by a horse. In some occasions bunnies pull this special cart. Velykų Senelė (Easter Granny) or Velykė drives the cart. She is using a sunbeam as a special whip.

The Granny brings eggs to good children. Those bad ones get an egg too. But that egg is not painted.

In Finland children used birch to beat grown ups until they gave them Easter eggs. Et gækkebrev (in Danish “gækkebrev” means “a letter for a fool”) is a Danish tradition that first appeared sometime in the 18th century. A sender writes a short poem on a piece of decorated paper. He/she signs it with as many dots as there are letters in his/her name. A dried spring flower is sent together with the letter. If the recipient can not guess who the sender is he or she has to give the sender an Easter egg.

Girls in Czech Republic give Easter eggs ("kraslice") to their boyfriends on Easter Monday. Easter egg competitions are organized in Prague and many other Czech cities.

Czech Easter Eggs
Czech Easter Eggs

In Croatia people use a pencil-like tool to apply liquid wax on an egg. After dying wax is removed. Beautiful pattern is revealed. Nowadays artificial paint is used to dye an egg. Still some people still used old techniques of dying by cooking eggs in water with onions, walnuts, roots and different herbs.

Croatian Easter Eggs
Croatian Easter Eggs

Those who wanted their eggs to be shiny polished them with little bit of oil. Other methods of decorating Easter eggs in Croatia include knife, silk or wool threads and formic acid. Traditional decorations that can been seen on Croatian Easter eggs are star, rosette, pine branches, flowers, circles etc.

In Bulgaria there is still an interesting tradition where people throw red Easter egg close to the family house. This act should keep evil spirits away. According to other tradition red eggs have to be blessed in church before they are eaten. Some also crack eggs on a church wall. Peasants used to bury some red eggs in the soil of their fields to prevent hail. People also used to put some red egg shells on the ceiling and walls of their houses as protection from evil spirits. Some egg shells were also given to farm animals in their food.

Parents touched faces of their children with Easter egg to ensure prosperous future. People who died on Easter were buried with red Easter eggs. Bulgarians prepare special Easter bread with red and white Easter eggs on its top. Red eggs represent female family members. White eggs represent male ones.

Easter bread ("Pane di Pasqua") is a very important part of Easter in Italy. Coloured egg is placed inside this special bread. Italians also make similar breads shaped as chicks, doves or babies. These breads are eaten after being blessed in church.

I Romania many people believe that Easter eggs have special powers. Each colour and pattern have meaning in fighting the evil. In the region of Maramuresh newlywed couples believe that by keeping Easter eggs in their home they protect themselves from evil, bring harmony and ensure happiness.

To commemorate Christ's death in France church bells can not be heard on Maundy Thursday. Parents tell their children that bell chimes have gone to see the Pope in Rome. Church bells start to ring again in the morning of Easter Sunday and that way show that Christ is alive again. In parts of France the sound of bells ringing is a sign for people to hug and kiss. On Easter morning French children start their search for Easter eggs ("les oeufs de Pâques"). Eggs are hidden in family home, garden etc. Children are told that the eggs are brought from Rome by bell chimes. In parts of France hidden eggs are put in a small chariot pulled by white horses.

Eggs are objects in two more French Easter games. In the first one kids roll raw eggs down the slope. The one whose egg does not break is the winner. This egg symbolizes the stone moved away from Christ's tomb. In the second game raw eggs are tossed in the air. You should catch your egg before falling down and breaking up. In some parts of France the looser has to give some Easter candies to other opponents.

In the USA the most popular Easter egg tradition is famous White House Egg Roll in Washington D.C.. The tradition was created by the 4th First Lady Dolley Madison (1768-1849) in 1814. It is held on Easter Monday on the lawn of the White House. During this lovely competition children push their egg with a special long-handled spoon. Apart from this competition people can observe White House personalities in Easter Bunny costumes, listen to speeches and book-reading by Cabinet secretaries and see the exhibition of Easter eggs made by artists.