The history of Easter eggs go way back. And believe or not, it didn’t have anything to do with Easter. Scholars believe that the ancient cultures of Eastern Europe worshipped the sun god, Dazhboh. They considered Dazhboh a major deities and birds were his favored animals because they could fly and get the closest to him. In turn, the eggs that birds laid were very special and were considered magical. Considering that eggs look inanimate but life comes out of them, it is understandable to equate eggs with rebirth. The practice of decorating eggs using wax-resist dates back to the pre-Christian era. And eggs were decorated with symbols of the sun and geometric figures.
With the spread of Catholicism, the Church tried to redirect people away from their pagan worshipping practices so instead of celebrating the coming of spring, or in the Slavic cultures, the worship of the sun, the egg became the symbol of the resurrection, the rebirth of Jesus. The Slavs adapted additional Christian motifs to decorate the eggs. Pyzanka is the traditional Ukrainian Easter egg and it’s made by a method similar to making batik. These decorated eggs are not exclusive to Ukraine but is found in many Eastern European cultures.
During the Soviet regime, the art of pyzanka was outlawed as a religious practice but it survived because the skill was carried abroad by Ukrainian emigrants. Since the Ukrainian independence in 1991, the folk art is enjoying its own rebirth. Today, pyzanka is a general term used for any type of decorated egg, which could be made from actual egg shells, wood, or ceramic. They are popular collectibles. The process is fascinating so I’ve included a video to share.
But here in the U.S., Easter eggs do not hold deep religious symbolism (although they should). Instead, they are considered treats. As a child, one of the most exciting treats I looked forward to each year are the sugar candy Easter eggs my parents bought. As a candy lover, what more could I wish for – a crunchy sugar shell and then surprise! Little chocolate eggs inside. I’m not patient enough to make my own but here is a great recipe from Taste of Home.
I loved Easter candy, especially Peeps, robin eggs, fudge-filled eggs, even plain milk chocolate eggs wrapped in pastel-colored foil. One Easter candy I don’t care for is the crème egg. Maybe because it’s just too messy and sticky to eat. And if that’s not gross enough, someone actually came up with deep-fried crème eggs. It’s insane!
Speaking of insane, how about this Easter Egg Tree? It’s a German tradition to decorate trees, apparently not just for Christmas. This Easter egg tree (or Ostereierbaum) in Saalfield, Thuringia has more than 10,000 eggs. It’s an apple tree owned by Volker Kraft and he and his family have been decorating it for Easter since 1965. All the eggs are mouth-blown (the egg is perforated with a small hole and the contents blown out). The Saalfield tree also has a lot of donated eggs from around the world. Unfortunately, the Kraft family has closed their garden in 2015 (aww…) and donated the eggs to a local entity that will be decorating a different tree in Schlosspark, also in Saalfield.
However you celebrate Easter, I wish you many blessings and just as many eggs!