by Ian Makay
Egg painting became such a potent religious symbol and an enjoyable celebratory ritual, that the practice spread to other faiths.
Judaism employed the practice of colored eggs for Passover borrowing from Christian Paschal celebrations. Historic belief in its Christian origins is derived from the observation that only in those communities where Jews and Christians lived together, primarily in Eastern Europe, did Jews color eggs for their Passover festivities. Similarly, Lag B'Omer, which falls chronologically between the Jewish holiday of Passover and the Christian holy day of Pentecost, is often celebrated with a family picnic featuring colored eggs that represent the rainbow and god's promise to Noah and the Jews.
Reacting to the popularity of Easter and Passover celebrations in the Middle East, Saladin created the holiday of Khamis al-Amwat (Dead Remembrance Thursday) adding it to the Muslim calendar in the twelfth century. Observed on the first Thursday after Easter, it features two Pascal traditions—the distribution of colored gift eggs to children and solemn reflection of the contributions of one's departed ancestors.
Artistic evolution in Central Europe brought with it a change in hue, as many Christian societies replaced the Easter egg's original pastel colors with shades of deep crimson, representing the blood, passion, suffering, purification embodied in the crucifixion of Christ. Other Christian enclaves went further, in some cases emblazoning eggs with elaborate colors and patterns or etchings, then preserving them with coats of resin. Many of these eggs became family and personal heirlooms, true works of art, designed for display not consumption and made to last for generations.
Also visit the main Easter page. Includes Spring, Easter and Passover recipes, tips, lore and more.
This page originally published as part of the electronic Gourmet Guide between 1994 and 1998. Modified March 2007.
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