Across the world it is egg dying day! As I attempt to once again see the world through the eyes of a writer, I imagine baskets, bowls, egg cartons and wobbly old wire racks filled with hard-boiled eggs awaiting either an egg hunt or a nesting place among vivid lime, pink or purple shredded cellophane ~ modern man’s version of straw from the hen house. I imagine families of many lands and cultures gathering around the kitchen table creating these works of art which define their culture and their character. The Easter Egg, in literary consideration, is an essential ingredient in defining character. It is what is referred to as “external detail.”
The Easter Egg, and the simple hard-boiled egg, are used in many religious and cultural celebrations this time of year because they represent rebirth. It is the verge of spring for most of us. Crops are planted with high hopes for a productive yield, animals are birthing their young. Christians see the egg as a symbol of the resurrection. In Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches the eggs would all be dyed red symbolizing the blood of Christ. The beautiful Pysanka eggs are utilized year round in the Ukrainian culture. Pysanka eggs are historically prepared only by women at night, in seclusion and a spiritual state of mind. Each egg would represent a separate blessing. Each symbol and color would tell of the desired blessing and express gratitude. For Jews, the hard-boiled egg dipped in salt water represents a sacrifice and peace offering served during Passover Seder. To Russian Czar Alexander III and his Czarina Maria Fedorovna, his son Czar Nicholas II, and his beloved Alexandra, the gift of a Faberge egg provided quite a different meaning and surely was not created around the kitchen table on the eve of Easter.
In some homes, the egg is not just a decoration, it represents a need for tradition. It represents desired security of an event that never changes from year to year. The little bowls are lined up on the newspaper covered table. Each bowl contains a Paas colored tab, boiling water and white vinegar. They look like eggs, but smell like a vinaigrette salad. Beside each bowl is a brass tool looking like the “little dipper” that it is. It is waiting it’s turn to safely dip and scoop the treasured eggs from their bowl of coloring. Any change in process or egg appearance would alter the family dynamic. Finding a new way to decorate an Easter egg would be unacceptable and result in anxiety, feelings of discomfort and unease.
For others, this annual event requires blazing new trails. There is a sense of tradition inherent in the gathering around the news-papered table, yet the process demonstrates a need to continually move forward, to explore new territory. Those families have dyed, stenciled, painted, glittered, be-ribboned, marbled, wrapped, tie-dyed, stamped, sticker-ed, sponge painted, decoupaged, fabric wrapped, and pysankied. The challenge each year is to find some means of decorating an egg that hasn’t been tried before! The Easter egg then becomes a traditional activity bridging to group creative exploration. Each egg becomes symbolic of culture and individual, not unlike the Ukrainian Pysanka egg. The difference is in the language of the symbols.