The Art of Decorated Easter Eggs

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Good Friday March 30| Holy Saturday: March 31| Easter Sunday: April 1| Easter Monday: April 2

Happy Easter! 
Easter is a Christian holiday that celebrates the belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. In the New Testament of the Bible, the event is said to have occurred three days after Jesus was crucified by the Romans and died in roughly 30 A.D. The holiday concludes the “Passion of Christ,” a series of events and holidays that begins with Lent—a 40-day period of fasting, prayer and sacrifice—and ends with Holy Week, which includes Holy Thursday (the celebration of Jesus’ Last Supper with his 12 Apostles), Good Friday (on which Jesus’ death is observed), and Easter Sunday. Although a holiday of high religious significance in the Christian faith, many traditions associated with Easter date back to pre-Christian, pagan times.

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In western Christianity, including Roman Catholicism and Protestant denominations, the period prior to Easter holds special significance.
This period of fasting and penitence is called Lent. It begins on Ash Wednesday, and lasts for 40 days (not including Sundays). The Sunday immediately prior to Easter is called Palm Sunday, and it commemorates Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem, when followers laid palm leaves across the road to greet him. Many churches begin the Easter observance in the late hours of the day before (Holy Saturday) in a religious service called the Easter Vigil. 
In Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Easter rituals start with the Great Lent, which begins on Clean Monday (40 days prior to Easter, not including Sundays). The last week of Great Lent is referred to as Palm Week, and it ends with Lazarus Saturday, the day before Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, which ends on Easter.
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Irrespective of denomination, there are many Easter-time traditions with roots that can be traced to non-Christian and even pagan or non-religious celebrations. Many non-Christians choose to observe these traditions while essentially ignoring the religious aspects of the celebration. Examples of non-religious Easter traditions include Easter eggs, and related games such as egg rolling and egg decorating. It’s believed that eggs represented fertility and birth in certain pagan traditions that pre-date Christianity. Egg decorating may have become part of the Easter celebration in a nod to the religious significance of Easter, i.e., Jesus’ resurrection or re-birth. Many people—mostly children—also participate in Easter egg “hunts,” in which decorated eggs are hidden. 
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In some households, a character known as the Easter Bunny delivers candy and chocolate eggs to children on Easter Sunday morning. These candies often arrive in an Easter basket. The exact origins of the Easter Bunny tradition are unknown, although some historians believe it arrived in America with German immigrants in the 1700s. Rabbits are, in many cultures, known as enthusiastic procreators, so the arrival of baby bunnies in springtime meadows became associated with birth and renewal. Notably, several Protestant Christian denominations, including Lutherans and Quakers, have opted to formally abandon many Easter traditions, deeming them too pagan. However, many religious observers of Easter also include them in their celebrations. An Easter dinner of lamb also has historical roots, since a lamb was often used as a sacrificial animal in Jewish traditions, and lamb is frequently served during Passover. The phrase “lamb of God” is sometimes used to refer to Jesus and the sacrificial nature of his death.
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Scotland – Egg RollingAlthough the Scots participate in many of the customs associated with Easter, they do have one tradition that is said to have originated in Scotland. On Easter Sunday many Scottish families participate in an egg rolling contest. After they’re boiled and painted, the decorated eggs are taken to the park where they are rolled down a hill. The person whose egg rolls the farthest distance without breaking is the winner of the contest. Although it is generally considered a children’s game, egg rolling actually has a religious meaning: the rolling of the eggs down the hill symbolizes the rolling away of the stones on Christ’s tomb associated with his resurrection.

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Greece - Egg Tapping - Although the Greek Orthodox Easter is not always celebrated on the same day as the Roman Catholic Easter, this year both are on April 20th. In Greece, Easter is considered the most sacred holiday of the year and is marked by many traditions. One of these is the tapping dyed Easter eggs together, a game called tsougrisma, believed to bring good luck.
On Easter Sunday, a time known for big family gatherings and feasting, each person takes a dyed boiled egg (usually colored red) and taps the pointed end of their egg with that of the person sitting next to them. This continues until there is a winner i.e. the last person left with an egg that is still in tact and the one on whom good luck is bestowed.

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United States - Easter Egg hunt - In the United States, Easter is dominated by candy, chocolates and the Easter Bunny. One popular American tradition is the Easter egg hunt. Children of all ages enjoy filling their Easter baskets with chocolate eggs or exchanging the eggs they’ve found in return for various treats. Another custom is the Easter egg rolling contest. Since 1987, the White House has hosted Easter egg rolling contests for the American public.  The eggs are rolled across the South lawn using a stick rather than downhill as they are in Scotland. This year the day after Easter Sunday, an estimated 30,000 people are expected to join the Obama family on the White House lawn for the traditional Easter egg roll.

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Ukraine - Egg decorating - Ukraine takes prize for the best Easter egg decoration. The Ukrainian city of Kolomyia has a long tradition of decorating colorful Easter eggs using a wax-resist batik method. Designs are first made in hot wax using a stylus, and the eggs are then dipped in dyes. The parts covered in wax resist the dye. There is even a museum in Kolomyia shaped like a giant Pysanka, or a Ukrainian Easter egg.
The museum is not only shaped like an egg (14 metres in height and 10 metres in diameter), but parts of the exterior and the inside of the dome have been painted to resemble one. Built in 2000, it is the world’s largest Easter egg and the only museum built for the sole purpose of displaying the beautiful Pysanka! 

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Happy Easter! 

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[photo Podlaskie Klimaty]

McDougall, H. (2010). “The pagan roots of Easter.”
Sifferlin, A. (2015). “What’s the origin of the Easter bunny?”
Barooah, J. (2012). “Easter eggs: History, Origin, Symbolism and tradition.” Huffington Post.
Chapman, E. and Schreiber, S. (2018). “The history behind your favorite Easter traditions.”
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