An Historical Look at Easter Customs
by Helen McIver
Easter eggs are special eggs that are often given to family and friends to celebrate Easter or springtime. The egg is a pagan symbol of the rebirth of the Earth in celebrations of spring and was adopted by early Christians as a symbol of the resurrection of Jesus. The egg has traditionally been a symbol of the start of new life, just as new life emerges from an egg when the chick hatches out. The ancient Zoroastrians painted eggs for Nowrooz, their New Year celebration, which falls on the Spring equinox. The Nawrooz tradition has existed for at least 2,500 years. The sculptures on the walls of Persepolis show people carrying eggs for Nowrooz to the king.
The oldest Easter tradition uses dyed or painted chicken eggs, but now most of us substitute chocolate eggs, or plastic eggs filled with confectionery such as jelly beans. These eggs are often hidden, allegedly by the Easter Bunny, for children to find on Easter morning. Individual baskets may also be hidden, with clues for specific children to find them. The eggs may also be put in a straw / plastic basket filled with real or artificial straw to resemble a bird’s nest (originally the Plover).
Easter eggs are a widely popular in Bulgaria, Russia, Romania, Ukraine, Poland and other Slavic countries’ folk traditions. A batik (wax resist) process is used to create intricate, brilliantly-colored eggs, the best-known of which is the Ukrainian pysanka. The celebrated Fabergé workshops created exquisite jewelled Easter eggs for the Russian Imperial Court. Most of these creations themselves contained hidden surprises such as clock-work birds, or miniature ships. A 27-foot (9 m) sculpture of a pysanka stands in Vegreville, Alberta.
There are many other decorating techniques and numerous traditions of giving them as a token of friendship, love or good wishes.
A tradition exists in some parts of the United Kingdom (such as Scotland and North East England) of rolling painted eggs down steep hills on Easter Sunday. In the U.S., such an Easter egg roll is often done on flat ground, pushed along with a spoon and has become a much-loved annual event on the White House lawn. An Easter egg hunt is a common festive activity, where eggs are hidden outdoors (or indoors if in bad weather) for children to run around and find. This may also be a contest to see who can collect the most eggs.
When boiling hard-cooked eggs for Easter, a popular tan color can be achieved by boiling the eggs with onion skins. A greater variety of color was often provided by tying on the onion skin with different colored wool yarn. Many different stickers can be glued on with less mess. I will never forget our omelette dinners or baked custard desserts to use up all the scrambled eggs!
For tips on boiling the perfect Easter Eggs, see this YouTube video below with easy step-by-step instructions!