Easter Egg Customs and Traditions around the World

In various traditions the egg continues to maintain a pivotal role during the whole period of  the Easter festivity. During the fasting period of Lent, eggs are often not eaten and therefore accumulate until Lent ends at Easter.   The exchange of chocolate Easter eggs is also a very popular custom in a wide number of countries. Multicolored Easter eggs are coveted prizes in numerous children's games including hunting eggs whereby children look for hidden eggs.  
Easter Egg Hunt
Easter Egg Hunt at Maryland Government House
Photo by Jay baker, courtesy of MDGovpics

In the Balkan and Greek orthodox tradition hard boiled eggs have for centuries been traditionally coloured of red, the symbol of the Passion.  More recently various different colours are used for decoration, generally during Maundy Thursday which commemmorates the Last Supper, and are eaten at Easter and in the following days. On Easter day, in many rituals, eggs are publicly blessed as the symbol of resurrection and of the cycle of life.  They are subsequently given to onlookers.

In Greece, Holland and a number of other countries, particularly at the Easter meal table before the eggs are eaten, a game is played where everyone chooses their own egg and a competition (known as tsougrisma in Greece which means "to clink together") is held where competitors tap the tips of their eggs together with another player. The winning egg is the one that doesn't crack, and this one is considered to bring good luck. These days colours are made using typical food colouring, but in past vegetables were used, including the outer peels of red onions.

In Belgium and France, the church bells do not ring between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Legend tells that the bells fly to Rome where they stay until Easter and, on their return they drop eggs, which children must find.  Belgian children make straw nests which they hide in the grass, leaving them to be filled with eggs by the Easter Bunny .
President Obama and The Easter Bunny
President Barack Obama and the Easter Bunny at the Whitehouse Easter Egg Roll in 2012
Picture by Bob Nichols, courtesy of USDAgov

Bulgarians color eggs which are cooked after Mass on Maundy Thursday. Passover breads also are a very strong tradition: they can be big or small, but are always decorated. The bread is called "kolache" or "kozunak". It tastes similar to a Brazilian pannetone sweetbread. Some of these breads are specially decorated with red eggs (always in odd numbers) and taken to the church on the Saturday morning for a sequence of liturgies. After these events, the breads and eggs are blessed and taken back home. These foods are then given to Turkish friends of the family, parents, godfathers and godmothers, and all the other relatives and friends. The eggs are broken after the midnight mass and during the subsequent days. One of the eggs is broken on the wall of the church.  This is the first egg to be eaten after the fast of Lent. Another ritual, happens after the Easter lunch.  Instead of eggs being hidden, they battle each other in an egg fight. These are true high-pitched contests. Everyone in a family will hold an egg, and pair up with an opponent. The eggs are tapped together and it is said that the one whose egg stays unbroken until the end will have a year of good luck.

The most common activity for this holiday in the United States is the Easter Egg hunt. Boiled eggs are decorated with paint and hidden for children to find. In smaller communities, the town's children meet in squares to find the eggs hidden everywhere. At the White House, the seat of government for the USA, people from the whole country congregate. The tradition comes from the beginning of the 1870s, when children played, during Easter, on the lawn of the Washington DC Capitol. They took boiled eggs and rolled them in the grass to see who managed to get their egg the farthest. In 1877, a law prohibited the activity, but president Rutherford Hayes, in 1878, released the south lawn of the White House for egg rolling. Today, tickets are issued free for children between 3 and 6 years old, accompanied by their parents, who participate for several fun activities around the White House before it is time for them to roll eggs on the lawn.

The Swedes maintain a very solemn Holy Week. To perform wedding ceremonies and baptisms at this time is considered inappropriate. However, the picture is gradually changing.  In recent years cinemas in Sweden have opened on Good Friday. Due to the climate of the country, the palms of Palm Sunday are usually substituted by willow branches. Because of being connected with this liturgy, the willow leaf became known as "a palm" by the Swedes. The Easter traditions of Sweden and of other Scandinavian countries are very reminiscent of the USA's Halloween. On Holy Thursday or on the eve of Easter, Swedish children dress as  wizards and visit their neighbors, leaving a decorated card (the "Easter Letter") and wait to receive sweets or money in exchange. This custom originates from a local legend, where it was said that during Easter, the activity of witches and wizards significantly  increases. The tradition of the "letters" is especially widespread in the west of Sweden, where also it is customary to put these letters in mail boxes or under  doors without being seen. The identity of who sent the card is always secret.  Swedish people also deliver boiled eggs during Easter, this tradition is not as prevailant as in other European countries.

In the Middle East, crimson eggs are exchanged  to remember Christ's blood that he shed on the cross. The Armenians empty them and decorate them with images of Christ and the Virgin Mary. In Poland and the Ukraine real works of art are created with melted wax on the shells of eggs.

A form of ground tax in Gemany, known as Zinsei  operated in the Middle Ages, whereby in Spring  farmers would need to pay taxes to their landlords on Maundy Thursday. During Lent it was forbidden in those days to eat hens' eggs, as they were considered to be a form of meat.  By the end of Lent when the Zinsei  taxes were due, the farmers therefore had a surplus of eggs and used eggs to actually pay the Zinsei taxes. 

In Alsace,  Germany, Switzerland and in most states of Austria, the Easter eggs are brought by the Easter Bunny (Osterhase). There are no bells, very few chicks but many rabbits in all possible and conceivable forms. Here one of the origins of this legend: tells of an old woman, without money to buy eggs for her small children, who decided to paint some. She hid them in her garden, and called the children, inviting them to seek their surprise gifts. Suddenly, a rabbit jumped out from a small nest of brushwood where the eggs were. A child shouted, filled with wonder: “The rabbit left eggs painted for our Easter surprise!”.

The Whitehouse Easter Egg Roll
The start of the Easter Egg Roll competition at America's Whitehouse
Photo by creativedc

In fact, the rabbit, very prolific in spring, is probably a symbol of fruitfulness, originating before Christianity. It should be noted that in Bavaria and in the Tyrol, the hare is replaced by a hen; in Westphalia and Thuringe it is a fox; and in Hanover it is a cuckoo. This tradition of a rabbit bringing Easter eggs travelled to Brazil where it is still celebrated.

In order to bring luck to a house in the South Tyrol in Austria, the custom exists of throwing an egg over the house and then burying it.

In many other countries, chicken eggs are still preferred to chocolate eggs. These are usually hard boiled.   Also in the countries where orthodox religion prevails, the tradition of chicken eggs remains, in response to the spread of mass produced chocolate eggs, considered by some orthodox Christians to be a commercialisation of Easter. In Italy the boiled egg symbol has remained popular, usually accompanied by the traditional Easter dove or served during dinner. The Easter egg also  represents Jesus' resurrection in many Arabian countries.

In the 19th century Finnish National Epic poem, Kalevala, the world was born from the fragments of an egg .   The lower half of the egg became the earth and the upper part became the sky.  The sun was created from the yolk and the moon was made from the white of the egg.  "All the coloured bits" became stars, and "darker crumbs" became clouds in the sky.

Since the 12th century the Polish tradition of Swieconka has been celebrated on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  Baskets containing Easter foods are blessed at Church. Eggs are included amongst the food in the baskets, as they are deemed to be a wholesome food for God's faithful sevants who take them in gratitude and in memory of the life and  resurrection of Christ.

The world largest Easter egg is in Betzdorf in Germany. It stands 9.27 metres high with a diameter of 5.71 metres.

Interesting and Fun Easter Ideas:
Make a Hand Painted Easter Egg Tree
Easter Decorating Ideas for your Home
Easter Gifts at Piglette:
Solid Chocolate Bunny
Chocolate Covered Fruit
Winnie The Pooh Figurine Easter Gifts
Easter Petits Fours
Egg-shaped Aquamarine Jewelry Pendant Necklace
Chocolate Roses
Easter Chocolates and Truffles
Red Roses
More Easter Bunny Gifts
Chocolate Easter Eggs
Fascinating facts:
History of Easter Eggs from their Origins to the Chocolate Egg
Origins of the Tradition of Decorating and Coloring Easter Eggs
Easter Egg Customs and Traditions around the World

Mistletoe Traditions and History History and Legends of the Basil Plant
The History of Halloween The History of Mother's Day

Wedding Dress History and Meaning of the Bridal Veil History of the Wedding Cake and Wedding March Music
Origin of the The Honeymoon Tradition History of Wedding Ring Customs and Engagement Ring Tradition

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