The egg is nature's perfect package. It has, during the span of
history, represented mystery, magic, medicine, food and omen. It is the
universal symbol of Easter celebrations throughout the world and has been
dyed, painted, adorned and embellished in the celebration of its special
Before the egg became closely entwined with the Christian Easter, it was
honored during many rite-of- Spring festivals. The Romans, Gauls, Chinese,
Egyptians and Persians all cherished the egg as a symbol of the universe.
From ancient times eggs were dyed, exchanged and shown reverence. In Pagan
times the egg represented the rebirth of the earth. The long, hard winter
was over; the earth burst forth and was reborn just as the egg miraculously
burst forth with life. The egg, therefore, was believed to have special
powers. It was buried under the foundations of buildings to ward off evil;
pregnant young Roman women carried an egg on their persons to foretell the
sex of their unborn children; French brides stepped upon an egg before
crossing the threshold of their new homes.
With the advent of Christianity the symbolism of the egg changed to
represent, not nature's rebirth, but the rebirth of man. Christians embraced
the egg symbol and likened it to the tomb from which Christ rose. Old Polish
legends blended folklore and Christian beliefs and firmly attached the egg
to the Easter celebration. One legend concerns the Virgin Mary. It tells of
the time Mary gave eggs to the soldiers at the cross. She entreated them to
be less cruel and she wept. The tears of Mary fell upon the eggs, spotting
them with dots of brilliant color. Another Polish legend tells of when Mary
Magdalene went to the sepulcher to anoint the body of Jesus. She had with
her a basket of eggs to serve as a repast. When she arrived at the sepulcher
and uncovered the eggs, lo, the pure white shells had miraculously taken on
a rainbow of colors.
Decorating and coloring eggs for Easter was the custom in England during the
middle ages. The household accounts of Edward I, for the year 1290, recorded
an expenditure of eighteen pence for four hundred and fifty eggs to be
gold-leafed and colored for Easter gifts. The most famous decorated Easter
eggs were those made by the well-known goldsmith, Peter Carl Faberge. In
1883 the Russian Czar, Alexander, commissioned Faberge to make a special
Easter gift for his wife, the Empress Marie. The first Faberge egg was an
egg within an egg. It had an outside shell of platinum and enameled white
which opened to reveal a smaller gold egg. The smaller egg, in turn, opened
to display a golden chicken and a jeweled replica of the Imperial crown.
This special Faberge egg so delighted the Czarina that the Czar promptly
ordered the Faberge firm to design further eggs to be delivered every
Easter. In later years Nicholas II, Alexander's son, continued the custom.
Fifty-seven eggs were made in all. Ornamental egg designers believe in the
symbolism of the egg and celebrate the egg by decorating it with superb
artistry. Some use flowers and leaves from greeting cards, tiny cherubs,
jewels and elegant fabrics, braids and trims, to adorn the eggs. They are
separated, delicately hinged and glued with epoxy and transparent cement,
then when completed, they are covered with a glossy resin finish.
Eggs Of all the symbols associated with Easter the egg, the symbol of
fertility and new life, is the most identifiable. The customs and traditions
of using eggs have been associated with Easter for centuries. Originally
Easter eggs were painted with bright colors to represent the sunlight of
spring and were used in Easter-egg rolling contests or given as gifts. After
they were colored and etched with various designs the eggs were exchanged by
lovers and romantic admirers, much the same as valentines. In medieval time
eggs were traditionally given at Easter to the servants.
In Germany eggs were given to children along with other Easter gifts.
Different cultures have developed their own ways of decorating Easter eggs.
Crimson eggs, to honor the blood of Christ, are exchanged in Greece. In
parts of Germany and Austria green eggs are used on Maundy Thursday (Holy
Thursday). Slavic peoples decorate their eggs in special patterns of gold
and silver. Austrian artists design patterns by fastening ferns and tiny
plants around the eggs, which are then boiled. The plants are then removed
revealing a striking white pattern. The Poles and Ukrainians decorate eggs
with simple designs and colors. A number of eggs are made in the distinctive
manner called pysanki (to design, to write). Pysanki eggs are a masterpiece
of skill and workmanship. Melted beeswax is applied to the fresh white egg.
It is then dipped in successive baths of dye. After each dip wax is painted
over the area where the preceding color is to remain. Eventually a complex
pattern of lines and colors emerges into a work of art.
In Germany and other countries eggs used for cooking where not broken, but
the contents were removed by piercing the end of each egg with a needle and
blowing the contents into a bowl. The hollow eggs were died and hung from
shrubs and trees during the Easter Week. The Armenians would decorate hollow
eggs with pictures of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and other religious designs.
Easter Egg Games Eggs play an important part in Easter sports.
The Romans celebrated the Easter season by running races on an oval track
and giving eggs as prizes. Two traditional Easter egg games are the Easter
Egg Hunt and the Easter Egg Roll. On Easter morning the children of the
house join in a search to locate the eggs that the Easter Bunny had hidden
while they where asleep. The searching might continue though out the house
with the older children helping the youngest. Sometimes prizes of candy are
awaiting the child finding the most eggs. Easter egg hunts can are also part
of a community's celebration of holiday. The eggs are hidden in public
places and the children of the community are invited to find the eggs. The
rules of an Easter Egg Roll are to see who can roll an egg the greatest
distance or can make the roll without breaking it, usually down a grassy
hillside or slope. Maybe the most famous egg rolling takes place on the
White House Lawn. Hundreds of children come with baskets filled with
brightly decorated eggs and roll them down the famous lawn, hoping the
President of the United States is watching the fun.
Although the omens and the mystery of the egg have disappeared today, the
symbolism remains, and artists continue in the old world tradition of
Lady Anne Decorated Eggs
Here are some
of the most beautiful