By Shaan Khan
Easter is in celebration of Jesus Christ’s resurrection. But why do so many of us associate it with bunny rabbits and decorated eggs?
Well, the tradition is separate from Jesus Christ’s story and Christianity combined. It founds its origins in Europe, where Easter Traditions occurred long before Christianity in pagan times.
The pagan traditions were seemingly too great not to forget and have added to the celebration of Easter.
European culture has been a crucial proponent in shaping Easter that we know today worldwide. Digging into the rabbit hole of European culture, you’ll find many unique ways Easter is celebrated in the continent that are lesser-known to the world or have taken the world by storm. The following include:
The Easter Egg
The name Easter derives from a pagan celebration in historic England known as Eostre. So it’s a balanced mix of culture and religion.
Easter was about celebrating new life; that’s where the symbolic significance of the egg comes from.
There is also a popular tradition known as the egg hunt in England, where parents hide eggs in the garden for children to find. But what kind of eggs, you ask?
Chocolate eggs hadn’t originated in England and are prevalent throughout Europe and all over the world. Still, England revolutionised the chocolate egg thanks to an English chocolate company known as ‘Cadbury’, who made the eggs much larger, denser and made with a variety of flavours and themes.
In fact, the chocolate easter egg collection in the UK is dominated by Cadbury Easter Eggs; almost all UK Kids will get one. Cadbury will theme easter eggs around their different branded chocolate, such as:
- Crème Egg
- Dairy Milk
The eggs come with the traditional branded chocolates as well. However, in the past few years, Cadbury has begun adding the flavour of their traditionally branded chocolate into the easter eggs that represent certain brands. If you can get a chance to grab a Cadbury’s Easter egg, then I highly advise that you do so.
Egg decorating in Easter is a highly popular tradition in Slavic countries of eastern Europe. Typically a practice involving women, where they carefully apply wax onto a form of raw bird egg with a kistka (stylus). The egg is then dyed, and more wax is creatively applied to form layers of colours and patterns.
Each Slavic country typically has a unique theme commonly seen with their decorated eggs. For instance, a red basis with yellow lines is a common theme for egg decorating in Bulgaria.
Ukraine is known for highly elaborate egg decorating designs by incorporating many layers of wax. The popular designs of egg decorating in Ukraine that include laced lines and cross-hatching have become popularised outside of Europe in countries like America. The American Folklife Center released a booklet known as Egg Art (1982) that details some of the designs and instructions of Ukrainian egg decorating.
Once a bunch of eggs are decorated, they are placed in a bowl. In Slavic cultural tradition, where you place your bowl of decorated eggs can offer different spiritualistic benefits. For instance, displaying the bowl of decorated eggs in your home can provide people living in the house with good health.
However, if you bury the egg near the house entrance, it can provide the spiritual power of protecting the people within the home.
Egg decorating, therefore, is cultural in the sense that it symbolises renewal, fertility and health in Eastern Europe and from a spiritualist perspective, egg decorating provides magical properties.
A new method of egg decorating that’s catching people’s attention is the technique of boiling a raw egg in water and vinegar while the egg is wrapped in silk—the method allows the silky pattern to engrain onto the egg.
The Egg and Spoon Race
Another popular activity besides the egg hunt is the egg and spoon race, where kids usually race each other while holding a hard-boiled egg on a spoon. Why?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first mention of the sport was in an article featured on The Daily News on 8th September 1894. The article mentions the race and describes the sport how it is today. From its first mention, the sport was incorporated into many festivities, with the main one that truly popularised the sport being the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897.
Egg and spoon races are commonly conducted in the manner of a relay, where there are teams, and each member must race opposing team members in their stretch of the race and make it to their team members to carefully place the egg into their spoon so they can run the next stretch and so on.
The key role of the egg and spoon race is not to drop the egg, or you can be disqualified or must reset while your opponents can continue.
In the UK, a traditional Easter dish is a special pastry known as hot cross buns that are filled with currants and raisins.
A popular dish in Eastern Europe is Kulich; a tall yeast bread cake served with raisins, almonds, and orange zest to increase flavour, texture, and nutritional value.
The Easter Tree
While most Easter festivities in Europe seemingly revolve around the all-encompassing ‘egg’, In Germany, there’s no difference. While the country is unique that they have the tradition of decorating trees as they do at Christmas, their Easter Trees are decorated with tens, hundreds or thousands of colourful easter eggs, whether raw or plastic.
In fact, the world record for most easter eggs on an Easter Tree is held by Rostock Zoo, which placed a whopping 79,596 painted and blown eggs onto a red oak tree!
Families begin hanging easter eggs onto an Easter Tree between late February and March—around four weeks before Easter.
Unlike egg decorating in Eastern Europe, the easter eggs that go onto the easter tree are usually spray painted with multicoloured patterns or covered in crochet that protects raw eggs from weathering.