Kill Your Darling Mother Goose (History of Easter Eggs)

Now that the chocolate withdrawal has begun to rear it’s ugly head, I thought this was a good time to take some time and discuss the Easter tradition, as it relates to art. It is Timely Thursday after all, dear readers.

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Whether you are gung ho for Easter or not, it is a commonplace event in Western culture and is celebrated for a few different reasons. Some do it to celebrate a tradition, others feel obligated to keep their children included and their colleagues in a state of uniformity, still others really really like the ideas espoused in the messages (family, charity, giving, togetherness, etc.) both from a religious or secular viewpoint.

The reality is that there is more than meets the eye to the tradition of Easter, both from a Christian perspective and a secular one.

It has a lot do with notion that whatever the dominant religion is in a culture, most people won’t reference the detailed aspects of the tradition, they just do what their families and friends have always done, and that is how events like this slowly evolve over time.

Look at the history of the Easter egg for example, a lot of people believe that Easter eggs are decorated and given out to symbolize the empty tomb of Jesus (death and rebirth), others believe it is a symbol of spring time, represented by the Easter Bunny. Which makes a lot of sense, but isn’t necessarily realistic.

The reality is kinda a combination of the two beliefs, and they just layer right in there. The tradition of the Easter egg stretches as far back as to ancient Africa, over 60,000 years ago. And we have evidence that eggs were symbols of fertility, death and rebirth, via the Sumerians and Egyptians about 5000 years ago – being placed in graves and decorated with gold and silver.

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Christians in Mesopotamia started the practice of staining eggs red, as a symbol of the blood of Christ. And this invariably spread throughout the different Christian communities over the centuries. Which is why Russians and Greeks got ahold of this practice, and it eventually made it’s way through different European countries…

Taken from Wikipedia and edited,

In the Orthodox churches, Easter eggs are blessed by the priest at the end of the Paschal Vigil (which is equivalent to Holy Saturday), and distributed to the faithful. The egg is seen by followers of Christianity as a symbol of resurrection: while being dormant it contains a new life sealed within it…

In Greece, women traditionally dye the eggs with onion skins and vinegar on Thursday (also the day of Communion). These ceremonial eggs are known as kokkina avga. They also bake tsoureki for the Easter Sunday feast. Red Easter eggs are sometimes served along the centerline of tsoureki (braided loaf of bread)…

The dying of Easter eggs in different colours is commonplace, with colour being achieved through boiling the egg with either natural colours (such as getting brown by using onion peels, black by using oak or alder bark or the nutshell of walnut, or pink by using beetjuice), or using artificial colourings.

When boiling them with onion skins leaves can be attached prior to dying to create leaf patterns. The leaves are attached to the eggs before they are dyed with a transparent cloth to wrap the eggs with like inexpensive muslin or nylon stockings, leaving patterns once the leaves are removed after the dyeing process...

Pysanky are Ukrainian Easter eggs, decorated using a wax-resist (batik) method. Many other eastern European ethnic groups decorate eggs using wax resistant batik methods for Easter. The word comes from the verb pysaty, “to write”, as the designs are not painted on, but written with beeswax.

As you can see from the excerpt above there is an incredibly storied history to the Easter egg, and a ton of opportunity to contribute to it’s future. But what do you think? Do you decorate eggs every spring and have you ever considered using eggs as symbols in your art? Know any expert egg painters? Please leave some comments and we’ll eggsecute a discussion.

Sorry I had to, I mean I had all this unused internet to write on… Please don’t leave, I can eggsplain, I was recently eggshiled from my family and I make yolks when I’m lonely.

Okay, I’m done. I got all the fun I could get out of that joke. And I’m out of theories for now friends, so please have an eggsellent weekend, and I’ll catch you on Sunday evening for something stimulating!

Tim!

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