Decorated Eggs for Easter: Custom and Folklore

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Eggs are something all Christians in the United States and many other countries associate with Easter. The egg is a symbol of new life as a new life emerges when a baby chick emerges from the egg. It is also symbolic of the tomb that held Jesus until he arose on Easter with a new life. To pagans it was a symbol of the rebirth of the Earth.

Traditionally chicken eggs are dyed or painted. Some modern customs  substitute chocolates eggs or plastic eggs which hold candy.

Easter in lvouz Russian Orthodox
Easter in lvouz Russian Orthodox | Source
Embroidered Egg
Embroidered Egg | Source

Folklore and Traditions


To the ancient Zoroastrians the New Year was celebrated on the spring equinox. To celebrate it they painted eggs for Nowrooz. The tradition lasted for 2,500 years plus. The walls of Persepolis show eggs being carried to the king for Nowrooz. For the Jewish people a hard-boiled egg dipped in salt water is a symbol of the festival sacrifice offered at the temple in Jerusalem for the Passover Seder (a ceremonial dinner).

In modern America as well as other places the Easter bunny has become a major symbol of Easter  Northern European pagans commonly used the hare or bunny and eggs in pagan springtime celebrations.

. One tradition in the United Kingdom is rolling eggs down steep hills on Easter Sunday. In the United States Easter eggs are often rolled on flat ground. It is pushed along with a spoon, and  has become something of a tradition on the White House lawn.

A common custom in the U.S. is  Easter egg hunts for children where hard-boiled eggs are hidden for children to find. Usually a prize is given. I remember helping to supervise one of these when I was a member of the Junior Chamber of Commerce.

Eggs are also used in egg tapping contests.

In the North of England a traditional game that is played consists of hard boiled pace eggs are distributed and each player hits the other player’s egg with their own. That is called “egg tapping,” “egg dumping,” or “egg jarping.”.Whoever holds the last unbroken egg wins. The losers can eat their eggs.

Every year an annual egg jarping world championship is held at  Easter at Peterlee cricket club. Bulgaria, Hungary, Croatia, Lithuania, Lebanon, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, and other countries also practice this custom, which they call tucanje.

It is practiced in many other countries as well.

In southern Louisiana the practice is called pocking Eggs. The Cajuns have the winner eat the eggs of the losers in each round.

The egg dance is a traditional Easter game in which eggs are laid on the ground or floor. The dancers must dance around them without breaking the eggs. This dance originated in Germany. In the UK it is called hop-egg.

Traditional village plays in England called Pace Plays have a rebirth theme. It is a drama in the form of combat between a hero and a villain. The hero is killed and brought back to life.

Mediterranean countries such as Lebanon there have a custom of decorating eggs for Easter and use them for decoration around the house. On Easter day children duel with them and say,” Christ is resurrected, Indeed he is.” They then break and eat the eggs.

Peter the Great egg
Peter the Great egg | Source

Ending of Lent


Traditionally lent has been a period of making minor sacrifices and easter is the breaking of the fast.

As kids we looked forward to the first piece of candy we could eat come Easter Sunday, as I recall.

At one time it was customary to use up all the eggs in the household before lent. Eggs, at that time, were forbidden during Lent and other days of fast in western Christianity. In Eastern Christian churches this is still the practice. Also in Eastern Christianity both meat and dairy products prohibited during Lenten fast. For them eggs are considered dairy i.e., a foodstuff taken from an animal without shedding blood.

Sleeping Beauty--created with a dentist drill
Sleeping Beauty--created with a dentist drill | Source

Christianity


For Christians the egg is a symbol of the resurrection partly because it carries new life sealed in it. In Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches, Easter eggs are dyed red, as the red represents the blood of Christ, which was shed on the cross. The hard eggshell symbolizes the sealed tomb, which Christ was in. Cracking the egg symbolizes the resurrection. At the end of the Paschal Vigil, and distributed to the faithful. Households bring Easter baskets to church filled with Easter eggs and other Paschal foods, which might include paskha, kulich or Easter breads, which are blessed by the priest.

In some traditions the Paschal greeting with the Easter egg is extended to the dead. The second Monday or Tuesday of Pasha people bring blessed eggs to the cemetery and bring a joyous paschal greeting for their departed. The greeting being “Christ has risen.”

Mary Magdalene with egg
Mary Magdalene with egg | Source

Mary Magdalene


According to an Eastern Orthodox legend Mary Magdalene was bringing cooked eggs to share with the other women at Christ’s tomb. The eggs in he basket turned a bright red when she saw Jesus risen. The egg is symbolic of the boulder that was at the tomb.

Another legend about Mary Magdalene is that after the Ascension of Jesus she went to the Roman emperor and greeted him “Christ has Risen.” In response the emperor pointed at an egg on his table and said,” Christ has no more risen than that egg is red.” After he said that the egg did turn a blood red.

In Bulgaria, Russia, Romania. Ukraine, Poland, and other Slavic countries folk traditions consider the egg as a symbol of new life.

Zagrebacko uskgnje
Zagrebacko uskgnje | Source

Decorating Eggs


A wax resistant process is used to create intricate, brilliantly colored eggs among which is the Ukrainian pysanka.

The Faberge workshops, which are well known, created jeweled Easter eggs for the Russian Imperial court. Surprises are often hidden inside the eggs; these might be clockwork birds or miniature ships.

Many other decorating techniques from many traditions prepare eggs as tokens of friendship, love and good wishes

Special eggs


 

There are special eggs for the visually impaired children so they can participate in Easter Egg hunts. These eggs beep. Since 2008 the International association of bomb Investigators and Technicians have sponsored a nationwide charity campaign in the U.s., by building beeping Easter eggs every year for the visually impaired children, according to Wikipedia.

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Comments 43 comments

Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Great Hub. I always thought that the egg tapping was a Lithuanian tradition as I had never heard of it until my first Easter with my husbands family. Always happy to learn something new!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for commenting. It seems to be done in one form or another in various places.


Docmo profile image

Docmo 5 years ago from UK

Great hub on Egg related traditions dahoglund. Thanks for this. I've learnt a lot ...!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thank you for reading and commenting.I'm always glad if someone learns something from my hubs.


cashmere profile image

cashmere 5 years ago from India

Great collection of religious traditions with eggs here. I'd just like to add that to date Zoroastrians consider eggs a food that must be associated with feast food. Even sweet dishes are decorated with boiled eggs :)

(My mom is one, my dad is not)


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for the additional information. Also I appreciate you reading and commenting.


Wealthmadehealthy profile image

Wealthmadehealthy 5 years ago from Somewhere in the Lone Star State

Interesting hub on eggs. My favorite one is the beeping egg, for it helps the blind children hunt them. Great hub


cardelean profile image

cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

Wow I learned so much from this hub, thanks. My husband is 100% Romanian and they practice the egg jarping, I just never knew that was what it is called. They are Orthodox and also only dye their eggs red, now I know why. Thanks!


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

This hub about decorated eggs for Easter was jam packed with all kinds of interesting information. You are becoming quite the professor! Enjoyed this hub immensely. Our family always cracked the hard boiled and colored eggs to see whose would crack last. Had no idea that this was a grand custom from long ago. Useful and up votes!


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

Hi doaglund,

A great hub crammed full of seasonal ideas.

Well presented and I am bookmarking.Useful/up also.

Take care

Eiddwen.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Wealthmadehealthy

Thanks for reading. Yes, I found it interesting that these eggs were made to beep and do other things for those who have trouble seeing the eggs.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Cardelean

Thanks for commenting. One thing I like about writing and research is that I learn new things in the process.I am glad to be able to share it with others.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks Peggy W. I appreciate the compliments. Kind of hard to think about Easter egg hunts while it is snowing . Today we have the kind of snow that snowmen are made of as well as snowballs.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

Once again, I learned interesting things from your hub. Those photos of decorations are just beautiful. Lovely and timely hub.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Genna East

It is always nice that someone finds something beneficial in my hubs.Thanks you for reading and commenting.


Les Trois Chenes profile image

Les Trois Chenes 5 years ago from Videix, Limousin, South West France

Love the Peter the Great egg and find the egg carving fascinating. I've saved some of my goose eggs in the hopes that I'll get around to doing something fantastic with them!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for commenting. Truthfully we have a hard time boiling an egg and getting it to come out right.


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 5 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

Good hub. The Western Church has done its best to keep the women who knew Jesus down. Apparently in the East traditions you have pointed out still exist making me wonder what the early church that was created soon after the resurrection was really like. Did women like Mary Magdalene have more of a voice? It seems that they did.

There are already chocolate easter eggs in the shops which I feel is a real bummer. We also have hot crossed buns as well far too early. Commercialism seems to have thrown out the traditions I grew up with.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Up to a point I think in the early church women did have some influence. There has been some confusion of who Mary Magdalene was. Somehow she has been associated with the woman at the well or a prostitute. However, i think she was actually a woman of some class and affluence who helped the early church financially.

Thanks for commenting.


KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

KoffeeKlatch Gals 5 years ago from Sunny Florida

Interesting reading dahoglund. I lke the tradition of the egg dance. I had never heard of it. You always come up with the most interesting things.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

The egg dance sounds like a challenge.I try to write about things that spur my interest and hope that others will also find it interesting. Thanks for commenting.


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 5 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

I think you are right, dahoglund.

Mind you mixing up Mary Magdalene with a prostitute may not have been accidental. And yes there is some evidence that Mary was a woman of class and influence.

The developing church in Rome wanted to raise the profiles of Jesus and his male associates while obscuring or defaming as much as possible his female associates. It was all about establishing a male hierarchy with the pope at the top.

Also the church, where it could, incorporated pagan ideas such as the rabbit and the easter egg into Christianity. Halloween was originally pagan but in medieval times it had a Christian component. Soul cakes on all saints day for example. Each cake eaten represented a soul freed from purgatory. It also meant, in practical terms, some poor sod down on his or her luck not going hungry.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Rod, thanks for your observations. I do think adapting pagan ideas to Christianity was a good idea as long as it was done in such a way as not to conflict. I wish it had been done more with the American Indians. If it isn't done the people will do so anyhow.


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 5 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

Many churches in Great Britain have actually been built on old pagan places of worship. In Greece they dug under an old church dedicated to St.George with a nice relief of St. George slaying the dragon. What they found the church sitting on was an old temple dedicated to Hercules and there you have Hercules slaying the hydra.

With the Australian Aborigines Christian worship does have its own special slant which is fine with me. I know that African Americans have Christian traditions that contain touches of where they had originally come from. Yes, the American Indians would have been better off if they could have submerged some of their ways into Christianity.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

This is a topic that has interested me for some time,maybe dating back to an anthropology course long ago.I think it falls into the category of "folk religion" in which Christians converted from other religion tend to retain aspects of old beliefs. In a mystery entitled "The rosery Murders' one of the characters as I recall is a priest that has elements of Voodoo in his belief.


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 5 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

The Rosery Murders sounds like a great title. Funny you should mention mystery. The mystery plays of the middle ages that were supposed to be Christian had a lot of pagan material hidden within. It was stuff the Church authorities might not recognize straight up but stuff the peasantry knew all about. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight smacks of an ancient ritual calling for the end of winter and the birth of spring. It involves death and rebirth.

I studied the middle ages a long time ago in college but I have always been fascinated by folk religion and would have liked to have delved more into anthropology.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

It is a long time since I was in college and studied these subjects. I remember reading mystery plays but don't remember that much about them. New Orleans, I would think, would be the place to go to find out something of folk religion with the mixture of cultures there.


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 5 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

New Orleans would be a great place to go. I was there in the '70s but too young to really explore. England, Scotland and Ireland and possibly Germany would also be great places to check out for the remnants of folk religion. The city of Prague would also have its fascinations.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

You are probably right. I've never been to those places and likely won't be able to afford much travel.


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 5 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

My books do a lot of the leg work for me, dahoglund.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

I understand.


spotlight19 profile image

spotlight19 5 years ago from California

Great article It was really interesting I really learned sooo much in this article about easter and how it is celebrated in different european countries the history I kind of knew some but not all of it but now I discovered new information.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for your comment. If you learned anything new I am glad.


Radical Rog profile image

Radical Rog 5 years ago from Plymouth

Easter originates with a celebration to the Celtic/pagan spring fertility goddess Estre, whose familiars are rabbits and eggs. This, like Christmas and virtually all saint's days were Christianised by changing their name and the myths surrounding their origin, but the practices involved were kept being early missionaries found this an easier way to 'convert' the local inhabitants of any region.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Yes, that is preety much what happened. It makes more sense to me than trying to change peoples cultures.Thanks for you comment.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

By and large that is about what happened.I think it is a suprior idea to attempting to change their cultures.Thanks for commenting.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thank you.Glad you liked it.


torrilynn profile image

torrilynn 3 years ago

thanks for this article

is was quite refreshing

I love how you included folklore with

the decoration of eggs. nice.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 3 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

torrilyn, I am glad you liked the folklore. I am always curious about where customs originate and what they mean. Thank you for commenting.


Radical Rog profile image

Radical Rog 3 years ago from Plymouth

Good hub, but don't forget the Anglo-Saxon fertility goddess Eostre, whose symbols are the hare and eggs. The hare becomes the rabbit and the name Eostre changes to Easter.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 3 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Radical Rog, thanks for the additional information. It may be useful in a revision of the hub. I appreciate you reading and commenting.


Rangoon House profile image

Rangoon House 17 months ago from Australia

Thank you for sharing such wonderful traditions from around the world. I hope you had a Happy Easter.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 17 months ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thank you for reading and commenting. Our Easter was fine ahnd I hope you had a nice one as well.

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