Art et Artisanat du monde
Art et Artisanat du Monde
Art et Artisanat du Monde - Nothing else than Nature

Decorated egg shell tradition, or " the egg, Easter, etc..."

The association "Art et Culture du Monde" organises exhibitions dedicated to egg symbolism, Easter traditions, decoration technics ... Information panels, samples of decorated egg shells of all sizes ... All dates on the page "News"

This text has been written with the help of our artists and with other websites content : their adresses are listed at the end of the 2nd part
1st Part : Egg symbolism and origin of Easter celebration
2nd Part : Easter eggs : Technics and examples of decorated egg shells
3rd Part : Easter in Europe : How things happen within famillies?

1st part : The egg is present in most of cultures and is widely used in the daily food. A wide range of artistic technics are developped around eggs. This part aims at reminding elements related to egg, egg crafts, Easter and Easter symbols.

Basis :

What is an egg ?
Focus on egg shells and chicken egg shells
Easter: what's that ?
When is Easter ?

Easter eggs :

Why are eggs associated to Easter ?
Chocolate eggs :
Fabergé
Decorated/carved eggs:

What is an egg ?

One must not forgot that the egg is first the mean of breeding for many species: fishes, snakes, insects, birds. But why laying eggs ? Actually, this is a great advantage. Indeed, from the beginning, the embryo is surrounded by a protecting environment which provide all necessary elements whereas the mother can look for food or escape predators far more easily. Moreover, for birds, laying eggs is a great mass savings compared to mammal whose females must carry the embryo during a long period of time. When you fly, this is a decisive advantage.
Obviously, for most of us, chicken eggs are mainly an essential element of our daily food because of its great nutritive qualities.
By the way, do you know how to determine if an egg is fresh enough to be eaten ? Very simple: Put it in a container filled with cold water,
If the egg stays in the bottom of the container, it is fresh.
If it goes to the surface of the water, you should avoid to eat it.

Focus on egg shells and chicken egg shells

Of course, it can't be eaten, nevertheless, the egg shell is a very important part of the chicken eggs (and all birds' eggs in general as they are all similar). Indeed, the egg shell is a barrier against infections and if it is broken, the protection is removed. Nevertheless, a shell not damaged is not strictly sealed. It allows some gas exchanges between inside and outside of the egg. This is to allow oxygen to come inside.
Note that a chicken is able to produce a weight of shell equivalent to its weight !

Easter: what's that ?

Even before development of christianism, Easter period and all celebrations at this period are associated with spring. All cultures always celebrated (and still celebrate) spring and the revival of life at the spring equinox around end of March. Yet, Roman celebrated Ceres, the goddess of harvests at Easter period.
Christian tradition celebrates the death (good Friday) then the revival of Jesus Christ (Easter Sunday), so, here again, a revival.
Jews had first two celebrations:
Hag Ha-Pessah : Easter lamb celebration. Celebrated at the times where hebrew people were nomadic.
Hag Ha-Matsoth : Unleavened bread celebration. Celebrated when hebrew people became sedentary at the beginning of harvest period.
Then, these two celebrations were celebrated to remind the exodus of hebrew people when leaving Egypt and slavery. Here again a sort of revival.

When is Easter ?

The jewish Easter starts the 15th of Nissan (month of ears and first month of the year). The first day of Nissan month is the day of the first new moon after the spring equinox. The day of the full moon is Easter day. The celebration last 7 days after this date.
For christians, the day of Easter was fixed by the council held in Nicea (Today called Iznik, in Turkey), in 325: The day of Easter is the first Sunday after the full moon following the spring equinox. Nevertheless, it remains a problem of calendars between catholic and orthodox people.

One celebration, two calendars:
The spring equinox was originally fixed the 25th of March in the Julian calendar (established by Julius Caesar) instead of the 21st of March today. The 4 days difference corresponds to a mistake corrected by the adoption of the Gregorian calendar (Introduction of leap years to take into account that the revolution of Earth around the sun does not last an exact number of days of 24hours).
But, orthodox church does not apply this new calendar (proposed by the pope Gregory XIII in 1582). In the 16th century, there was a 10 days difference between both Easter day. A difference still exists.
Moreover, the greek orthodox church determines the date of the full moon with ancient calculations. Thus, the « theoritical » orthodox full moon is a few days after the « real » full moon. That's why the Easter celbration is not the same day in all christian world.

Why are eggs associated to Easter ?

The egg is a symbol of life and revival of life and this well before the christian era. That's why it is associated to most of the celebrations of spring and spring equinox.
The arab people are the first to place decorated eggs on support. The roman people associated eggs to the celebration of goddess Ceres, goddess of harvest.
Nevertheless, this tradition became more important when Christian search imposed the Lent period. During this 40 days period, eating products coming from animals (including eggs) was forbidden. As chicken did not stop to lay eggs anyway, at the end of this period of fasting, the most recent eggs were eaten and the oldest were decorated and offered.
During the Renaissance period, the symbol is less strong, but, egg crafts is developping: Jewelers make egg shell in gold, silver, platinium and add precious stones.
Louis XIV gave them to his courtiers for Easter.
Louis XV more particularly appreciated egg made of gold.
The other Easter's symbols: Bells, rabbit or hare...
In France, tradition says that bells bring eggs back from Rome. Why ?
The bells which used to ring regularly, stopped ringing the day before Good Friday to remind the death of Jesus Christ. They re-started ringing the Sunday, day of his revival. Then, that's why one said that bells were going to Rome to come back with the Easter eggs.
In anglo-saxon countries, it is more a rabbit or a hare which brings Easter eggs. The rabbit (or hare) is also a symbol of life and revival of life, that's why it is associated to this celebration. Obviously, rabbits do not lay eggs !

Chocolate eggs :

Eggs are asociated to spring equinox celebration for a long time, but, egg shaped candies appeared relatively late. Under Napoleon reign, confectioners sold eggs made of sugar and it is only on the 19th century that one can find the first chocolate eggs thanks to the improvement of technics (better refining of chocolate paste and first suitable moulds.
Since then, several millions of chocolate eggs are sold every year.

Fabergé :

Karl Fabergé (1846 – 1920) was born in a familly of jewellers coming originally from France. His familly leaved France when Louis XIV cancelled the edict of Nantes. His grand-father, also named Karl, takes the russian nationality at the begining of the 19th century.
He was so famous that he became quickly a supplier of several european courts (France, Sweden, Norway, England) and he obtained a prize at the World Fair in 1900.
He definitively acquired his notoriety thanks to his extraordinary eggs (roughly 50 in total). These eggs are still very attractive for collectors all over the world.

Decorated/carved eggs :

Apart from the chocolate eggs and famous works like Fabergé ones, a wide range of technics developped along the time.
Painted eggs can be found mainly in East european countries and are called Pisanki. This tradition is present in Ukraine but can be found as well in Hungaria, Poland, Slovakia, etc...
One can found carved eggs nearly everywhere but are mostly popular in North America.
In France, they are very good craft men and women. Among them, there is Christel Assante who exhibits on www.Art-et-Artisanat-du-Monde.com and participates to the most prestigious salons in France.

Following : the various technics

Traditionnal or recent, here is an overview of the various technics used with pictures of different egg shells...
Sketch on egg shell Carving on egg shell with dentist tool Painting on egg shell Veronika's workshop (Hungary)