The Easter Egg
The holiday of Easter, known as Paschal in some regions, is celebrated across many many nations and peoples around the globe, especially if they are pre-dominantly affiliated in religious culture as Christian. However, Easter Sunday as we know it now, has a pretty interesting background of traditions going back into the times of pagan Europe and even becoming such creative symbols as the exquisitely jeweled eggs of Russia’s House Faberge. Let us take a look at this hallmark springtime festivity and check out some of its rich history. At the end, we can all enjoy a hand at DIY non-toxic natural egg dye options for some creative, de-stressing fun no matter how old you are or how you’ll be celebrating the holiday!
Easter originally was a pagan European holiday that centered around a feast to the Germanic Goddess of Spring Eostre/Ostara around the Spring Equinox of March 21st. A mother goddess of Northern Europe who was honored as the bringer of the dawn and of springtime, Ostara had a couple of stories about her regarding white rabbits and bird eggs (symbols that would come to represent the Easter feast). One of the myths of Ostara features the bunny. As the story goes, Ostara, was late bringing spring one year. As her energy swooped across the land, she came upon a little bird whose wings had been frozen in the snow. Filled with compassion for him since he could no longer fly, she turned him into a snow hare and gave him the gift of incredible speed, to flee from the hunters. Still partially a bird, the hare showed its gratitude to the goddess by laying eggs as gifts and painting them pretty colors. The Goddess loved the gifts so much, she ordained that her feast would always feature this activity henceforth.
Such is as the saying goes…
So how did the Easter feast get turned into Easter Sunday?
In his 1835 Deutsche Mythologie, Jacob Grimm cites comparative evidence to reconstruct a potential continental Germanic goddess whose name would have been preserved in the Old High German name of Easter, *Ostara. Addressing skepticism towards goddesses mentioned by Bede, Grimm comments that “there is nothing improbable in them, nay the first of them is justified by clear traces in the vocabularies of Germanic tribes.” Specifically regarding Ēostre, Grimm continues that:
- We Germans to this day call April ostermonat, and ôstarmânoth is found as early as Eginhart (temp. Car. Mag.). The great Christian festival, which usually falls in April or the end of March, bears in the oldest of OHG remains the name ôstarâ … it is mostly found in the plural, because two days … were kept at Easter. This Ostarâ, like the [Anglo-Saxon] Eástre, must in heathen religion have denoted a higher being, whose worship was so firmly rooted, that the Christian teachers tolerated the name, and applied it to one of their own grandest anniversaries.
Thus, as Christianity spread throughout all of Europe, Easter (originally a celebration of the renewal of life during springtime) became transformed into Easter Sunday (the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ) to help the new religion integrate with the natives of whom were the primary converts to such.
The beautiful painted eggs became a symbol widely recognized across not only Western Europe, but later on Eastern Europe, North America, South America, and beyond as a tradition that still holds weight to this day. In fact, some artists took their inspiration from these eggs to scale their fame quite far.
The House of Fabergé (French pronunciation: fabɛʁʒe) (Russian: Дом Фаберже) is a jewelry firm founded in 1842 in St. Petersburg, Imperial Russia, by Gustav Faberge. Using the accented name “Fabergé”, Gustav was followed by his son Peter Carl Fabergé, until the firm was nationalized by the Bolsheviks in 1918. The firm has been famous for designing elaborate jewel-encrusted Fabergé eggs for the Russian Tsars and a range of other high quality and intricate works. Faberge is a brand you might recognize in a lot of places, especially if you see one of these delicate lavish pieces of art:
DIY all-natural dyes
Whether your Easter weekend will be filled with children, family and traditional Easter activities or drinking wine, donning bonnets, and making vegan chocolate rabbits in a friend’s apartment kitchen, I encourage you to take up with the season and make the brightest, most colorful Easter eggs you can dream up—without using artificial colors and potentially toxic dyes. These eggs can eventually be eaten, displayed (if drained), and just plain recycled at the end by burying the shells in your garden (makes for great plant fertilizer!).
You can keep things safe (and thrifty) by making your own natural dyes from things you probably already have in your kitchen.
For Orange, use yellow onions. mix 1 cup yellow onion skin (about 2 onions’ worth), 1 teaspoon vinegar, and 3 cups water in a pot. Boil for one half hour, cool to room temperature, strain out the onion skins, then soak hard-boiled eggs in the dye for one half hour.
For Red, use beets. Combine 2 cups of grated raw beets with one tablespoon vinegar and 2 cups of water. Boil for 15 minutes. Let water cool, then add eggs; the longer you soak, the deeper the red color will be.
For Yellow, use cumin or turmeric. Boil three tablespoons turmeric or cumin. Strain the ingredient (if necessary) and add one tablespoon vinegar to the dye. Allow the dye to cool a bit before (adding) the eggs.
For Lavender, use Hibiscus tea bags.
For Blue, use purple or red cabbage. Dice ¼ head of cabbage and add to 4 cups boiling water. Stir in 2 tablespoons vinegar. Let cool to room temperature and strain before adding eggs.
For Green, use parsley and/or spinach.
Want to make intricate designs easily on these eggs? Check this video out.
I hope you had fun learning!
For those who don’t want to go the DIY route but still want to keep things natural, check out these natural dye kits on Eupterra Foundation’s article page.
For more on all-natural DIY, visit Eupterra’s homepage.
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