- Holidays and Celebrations
The Easter Egg
The tradition of spring festivals is very old. The first recorded celebration of Easter took place in the second century. The tradition of decorating eggs became part of spring celebrations long after the holiday was established. Easter is officially a religious holiday, yet the significance of the egg, predates Easter celebrations.
To Christians the Easter egg is symbolic for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Early Christians of Mesopotamia stained eggs red, in memory of the blood Christ shed at his crucifixion. The Christian church officially adopted the custom of the eggs as a symbol of the resurrection in 1610. The egg symbolizes the tomb Jesus rose from.
Eggs also seem to have become part of the spring holiday simply because of the time of year Christians took lent. Christians would abstain from eating eggs, meat, or any kind of animal product, then lent ended with the arrival of Easter. It was the first chance to eat eggs after a long period of abstinence. Eggs were commonly boiled to be saved from spoiling, and finally eaten on Easter, they were most likely especially tasty. In modern times, the eggs are especially boiled and decorated specifically for Easter.
In Europe the tradition of painting eggs is still practiced. In Slovenia, families dye eggs red according to custom. The use of onion skin is utilized to present red eggs to the dining table, and some eggs are beautifully crafted with the use of spring flowers and gauze. Sometimes designs are carved into the eggshell with hot beeswax and rubbed in pig fat. In Greece eggs are always dyed strictly red, and in Italy large chocolate eggs hide gifts for loved ones.
Eggs have been beautifully painted and decorated in civilizations for thousands of years. All over the world the egg held significance in ancient cultures as the symbol of fertility and new life. Ancient Persians painted eggs for Norwooz (the new year), that falls on the spring equinox.
Special care was taken in ancient cultures to creatively preserve the shell of the egg. 60000 year old, decorated Ostrich eggs were found in South African caves. The large Ostrich egg was also discovered to be a symbol, in ancient Egypt. Ostrich eggs and representational gold, and silver eggs, were placed in ancient Egyptian graves over 5000 years ago.
In Germany eggs were decorated as far back as the thirteenth century. This ancient custom is now part of the Easter holiday, tradition.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, dyed Easter eggs became something that was given to children. Especially in the Victorian era, the holiday shifted toward family friendliness celebrations.
The tradition of filling egg shells with confetti came from Mexico. The confetti eggs were used during holidays, in modern times smashing shells have become part of the Easter celebration. It is thought that it is good luck for bows to break confetti eggs on each other’s head. Confetti eggs are actually known as Cascarones. Egg shells were filled with confetti, and then the tradition was to crack the egg over a friend’s head, the word carscarones literally translates into “shell hits.”
Confetti eggs are believed to have originated in China in the Far East. The Egg shells were originally filled with scented powders and given as gifts. Marco Polo visited China in the thirteenth century, and returned with the tradition, to Italy. The powder filled eggs became popular among the royal court of Europe, especially in Italy and Spain. The practice arrived in Mexico in the 1860s, with Maximillian’s wife Carlotta, who introduced them to the population of the country.
Confetti eggs have long been celebrated in Mexico but not during Easter. Mexicans may use the “shell hitter” during any festive occasion, but Cascarones are a very popular feature during Carnival (Mardi gras). It is traditionally good luck to have a confetti egg cracked over the head. Breaking shells on someone’s head can be a sign of affection, if the smasher wishes to date the person. If the egg is broken over the head of a friend, the friend makes a wish upon impact?
It is unclear when the two practices of confetti eggs and symbolically painted eggs came together. It is not surprising that the cultures merged on this traditional detail, since the egg is such a significant part of Easter. Both customs are festive in the celebration of spring, with the decorating and smashing of egg shells.
In the late nineteenth century, in Russia, high members of royalty gave jewel encrusted eggs as Easter gifts. The art jeweler, goldsmith, Peter Carl Faberge was commissioned by Czar Alexander III to create a jeweled Easter egg, for his wife.
The custom of painting the egg is very old. If anyone wants to be creative this Easter, decorating the Easter egg is an ancient craft that are ancestors took time to fashion. The Easter egg can be elaborately decorated with beauty, provide a hiding place for a gift, or simply used as a fun way to celebrate Easter. The possibilities are endless this holiday. Enjoy!