Originally published in The Quarterly magazine, Spring 2013
Every morning, ordinary chicken eggs are cracked into frying pans. The content satisfies hunger and nourishes the body; and often, nothing more is thought of it… that is, until another egg dish is created or Easter rolls around. In the spring, the commonplace breakfast item demands attention in another way. What does this delicate white ovoid symbolize? And why do people yearn to decorate it?
Through the ages, the egg has become a universal symbol of new life, fresh beginnings and miracles. People began decorating and exchanging them as unique gifts and as a remembrance of hope. Artistic eggs help celebrate special occasions in nearly every corner of the globe. Whether they are a solid color or have intricate designs, the ornate egg is more than an attractive addition on a shelf or in a basket; the meaning associated helps us have a more egg-straordinary appreciation for its beauty.
Dating back nearly 4000 BC, decorated ceramic eggs were excavated within the Ukraine giving way to today’s well-known Ukrainian pysanka (also Croatian pisanica, Polish pisanka, and Romanian Ciocanesti egg.)
The beautiful pysanka is an elaborately dyed Easter egg using the batik process of applying beeswax and the consecutive dying of darker colors to display the previous light color under the wax that is later wiped away.
The Chinese were known to decorate eggs around 900 BC. They were used in temple worship and as decorative items while symbolizing fertility and rebirth.
Ancient Persians exchanged gifts of colored eggs during the spring equinox, the start of their new year.
One of the most extravagant egg decorations was by Russian jeweler, Peter Carl Fabergé. He and the subsequent House of Fabergé made opulent eggs of gold, precious metals and stones, and surprise treasures nestled within each other for Tsar Alexander III to give to his wife for Easter in 1885.
The more modern Japanese Washi eggs is made from art on Washi paper from the bark of 3 different Japanese trees that is glued onto the egg and believed to bring good luck, prosperity and health, while representing fertility and love.
In the Christian tradition, the Easter egg represents a new, eternal life. It is often dyed red to symbolize Jesus’ blood from his death on the cross. The shape of the egg is also compared to the stone that was rolled away from his grave. And blowing the contents out of the egg by placing a hole at each end symbolizes the empty tomb and hence Jesus’ resurrection.
In the spirit of all things new, create your own artistic Easter eggs by decorating them with vibrant spring colors.
Like people, each egg is wholly unique even before an artist adorns it with their designs or a drop of dye stains the surface. So as you gaze upon the egg, consider the rich heritage surrounding it and make it your own.
Go online and purchase different types of eggs: goose, duck, turkey or even emu, rhea or ostrich eggs, the later 3 having thicker shells to make longer-lasting treasures like boxes and mosaics. Embellish the eggs with your creativity. Scramble-up new egg dishes, using any of the eggs above. And have fun sharing your creation with friends and family.
Egg-related Easter happenings around the San Gabriel Valley:
To decorate clay eggs (or bunnies and cross boxes) visit Color Me Mine in Pasadena (626) 298-6765.
South Pasadena’s Egg-stravaganza will be held on Saturday, March 30, from 12-2 PM at Garfield Park. There will be a visit by Mr. and Mrs. Easter Bunny, egg hunts divided by age groups, mini carnival rides, arts and crafts, and more ($5 for children.) For more information call (626) 403-7380.
Arcadia’s Spring Egg-stravaganza will be on March 30, starting at 11 AM at Arcadia County Park. There will be an egg hunt and an appearance by the Easter Bunny. On Friday night, March 29 is The Great Egg Race, a flashlight egg hunt for teens. For more information call (626) 574-5113.
In San Gabriel, on March 30, beginning at 7 AM, there will be a breakfast at Smith Park (a small charge for children and adults). Pancake races begin at 9 AM (bring your own spatula!) And an egg hunt will begin at 10 AM. For more information call (626) 308-2875.
Kidspace in Pasadena hosts an egg hunt after Easter on Sunday, April 7. For the price of admission call (626) 449-9144.
Enjoy eggs at various sites for Easter brunch: Firefly Bistro in South Pasadena, The Huntington Library in San Marino, and in Pasadena – La Grande Orange Café, The Raymond, Parkway Grill, Mi Piace, and Maison Akira.