During the Spring, you can literally see hundreds of handcrafted eggs in the many European Easter markets. From Scandinavia and Britain in the north to Italy and Greece in the south, from the Slavic countries to Germany, Romania and Hungary, eggs at Easter are dyed in many colors, decorated with intricate designs, hung from tree branches, strung onto wires, buried in the ground, featured in games, exchanged among friends, baked into breads and taken to church to be blessed on Easter morning.
Several countries and regions in Europe—Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Moravia, Slovakia, Bohemia, Hungary, Slovenia, Romania, Germany, Austria—are well known for their production of beautifully decorated eggs, using age-old techniques and designs, many of which are unique to that particular place. A connoisseur in folk art can tell at a glance whether an egg has come from the eastern or western part of the Czech Republic, from Slovakia, from northern Croatia or from central Austria.
But why do we have these customs during the Spring — And certainly where did the custom of coloring and dying eggs come from……
For thousands of years, the egg has been a powerful and ancient symbol of rebirth and the Spring Equinox Today, most historians believe that the holiday of Easter and the practice of decorating and coloring eggshells has its roots in ancient pagan culture.
Sumerian, Babylonian, Persian, and pre-dynastic Egyptian cultures all celebrated the return of Spring. These cultural relationships probably influenced early Christian and Islamic cultures in those regions, as they were spread through trade, religion, and political links from the areas around the Mediterranean.
60,000 year old engraved ostrich eggshells have been discovered in South Africa , decorated with engraved hatched patterns. There is evidence that, even in ancient Roman culture, eggs decorated with vegetable dyes using onion skins, beets, and carrots were given as gifts during the spring festivals.
In Persia and present day Iran, the celebration of the New Year, incorporates colored eggs as part of the ceremonial Nowruz table. This 13-day spring festival falls on or around the vernal equinox in March and is believed to have originated in modern day Iran as part of the Zoroastrian religion.
One theory for the name Easter, is that it probably came from Eastre, the Saxon name of the goddess of spring and fertility, Her festival was celebrated on the day of the vernal equinox; traditions associated with the festival survive in the Easter rabbit, a symbol of fertility, and in colored Easter eggs.
Civilizations worldwide have created rituals to celebrate a fertile spring, a time of renewal, regeneration and resurrection. Newer legends blended folklore and Christian beliefs and like the holiday of Easter itself, the art and craft of decorating eggs with different colors has also evolved over time.
The renowned Russian court artist and jeweler Peter Carl Fabergé made exquisitely decorated precious metal and gemstone eggs for the Romanov Dynasty. These Fabergé eggs resembled standard decorated eggs, but they were made from gold and precious stones.
This new book shows the varied sources for the folk art of coloring and decorating eggs, while demonstrating their complexity in design and symbolism.
Eastern European cultures have exceptionally strong traditions of decorating eggs. Created for hundreds of years in the Urkraine and other Slavic countries, the extraordinarily delicate and beautiful Pysanky eggs are highlighted — their history and methods of decorating are discussed in the book.
Showing how the cultural traditions have merged and evolved over several thousand years of history, this is a book to enjoy with your family.
The Egg of Many Cultures: Transforming a Celebration of Spring into Easter
Ebook, 60 pages, illustrated, 7″ x 7″
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