My kids asked me the other day about Easter and why it’s a time for giving each other chocolate eggs.
I offered the theory that eggs symbolise new life which therefore reminds of Jesus’ Resurrection – Easter being after all, and quite indisputably — with hand on my open-minded and politically-correct heart — a Christian festival, even if the Christians adopted the egg symbol initially from Pagans.
But why does the Easter Bunny bring eggs? Bunnies don’t lay eggs, they continued.
Well, it’s the bunnies who hide the eggs for your Easter egg hunts, i suggested, less convincingly, but wanting to lighten the tone.
So why in England do we sometimes get things like chocolate frogs instead of chocolate bunnies or eggs?
Well that my dear children is called marketing, and the commercialisation of Easter.
Once upon a time people simply exchanged birds’ eggs, which would have quite likely been decorated or dyed. In more recent times, this evolved to the giving of chicken’s eggs, often blown prior to decorating, or wooden eggs that would be exquisitely painted as is still the case in much of Eastern Europe, notably in the Ukraine where they recreate traditional folk designs using a batik (wax resist) process known as ‘pysanka‘. In the Orthodox Church eggs are still painted red to symbolise the blood lost by Jesus on the cross, whilst in Catholic Southern Europe, it is increasingly common to see chocolate versions of this religious symbol.
In most parts of the world, children and adults may well get up to decorating Easter eggs, and over the Easter weekend, Easter egg hunts take place where children/families go looking for chocolate eggs, that may or may not have been planted by the Easter Bunny. Other than that, and as with many things, it ain’t what you got, it’s what you do with it that can say a whole lot more about a person or a people and here are just a few of the practices and rituals we know about in some countries in the world:
Norway – Easter egg hunt. Instead of hunting for chocolate eggs, they look for brightly coloured paper eggshells that have been filled with small chocolate lollies.
Germany – Easter egg trees. Easter eggs are decorated and then hung from trees.
UK / USA – egg rolling. On Easter Monday kids literally roll eggs down hills and see whose can reach the bottom first, without breaking.
Mexico – egg ‘piñata’. Egg shells are filled with confetti, hidden and then once found are broken over the finder’s head
Austria / Eastern Europe / UK (North) – egg tapping, or ‘jarping’ (a bit like egg ‘conkers’). A battle of 2 hard-boiled eggs, held in the hands of two opponents who tap each other’s egg until one breaks. The loser eats the egg.
Greece / Cyprus – Similar to egg tapping, but using hard boiled eggs that have been painted and hung on string as decorations. The eggs on string are then used to break opponent’s egg on string, even more like the game if conkers. The person whose egg doesn’t break is thought to have good luck.