Easter Eggs - Easter stories part 1
Happy Easter, if you celebrated it today! I did. For more than 30 years I have the pleasure of celebrating Easter twice. Coming from Romania and living in The Netherlands usually gives me two Easters: An Orthodox and a Catholic/Protestant one. Each one of them have the same common ground but also different rituals and traditions.
The beauty of traditions these days is that you can choose what is closer to your heart and go for it. Through the years I found my own way of celebrating Easter in alignement with my own roots and wings. And frankly, also taste.
In the Netherlands Easter is about flowers, spring, chocolate eggs and bunnies, Easter sweet bread with almond filling and family brunch followed by a walk in nature or the neighborhood. There are classical concerts like Mattheus’ Passion and Requiems, new musical shows about the Passion of Christ and joyful pop concerts. Lent, the 40 days fasten period before Easter is usually used in other ways. These days there are challenges like 40 days without alcohol or social media, rather than the traditional food related cleanse. People who go to church on Easter Sunday are usually religious people and there is a certain kind of sobriety about this mass that never made me really feel the festivity of this celebration. And I have been looking for that festive feeling in both Catholic and Protestant Churches, but I never really felt what I was looking for.
To be honest, I am not religious and nor did I look for that kind or religious experience. I didn’t grow up religiously in Romania, but religion over there is a more visceral part of society. Especially at Easter, after the long cold winter, you can feel how the community comes alive. Easter is a buzz, is all around you, is a feverish and frantic preparation with spring cleaning, painting eggs, baking Easter bread, roasting lamb. Easter is going with family and neighbours to midnight mass, walking back holding your candle burning all the way to your house to bring in the light of Christ, the light of hope. Is whishing everyone you come across the words “Christ has risen”. They would answer back “He truly has risen”. A feeling of community and unity is what I feel during Easter days. This is what I now experience every time I get a chance of celebrating Easter in Romania. And sometimes I do that here in The Netherlands with Romanian and other orthodox friends.
From the Dutch traditions, egg hunting is a very nice tradition for children in The Netherlands. Parents would hide chocolate eggs in parks and gardens. The excitement is big and finding them is a joyful matter for children and parents. My daughter used to love this when she was little. Eggs are also painted red and in many other colors. Children have a blast using water colors and crayons to draw flowers, patterns or sweet and silly faces on the eggs. I loved doing these kinds of activities with my kid when she was little.
In Romania the painting of the eggs is a more laborious and artsy work, like in most Eastern Europe. Eggs are traditionally painted red with dry onion leaves. Of course, today there are more options and you can find dye in all colors of the rainbow. My grandmother used to pack some eggs in transparent pieces of cloth and put parsley leaves on the eggs before dyeing them. That gave the eggs a beautiful botanic pattern. In all regions in Romania, eggs are painted in elaborate traditional motifs, colored beeswax being a main ingredient for making those motifs. It’s not an easy task and you need a steady hand. And a lot of focus. I never did that myself, but that is a challenge I am looking forward to go for it really soon.
The art of painting eggs has developed though the centuries from motifs and patterns, to whole biblical scenes and little magical visual stories. Those eggs are usually being made by real artists; from old, crafty women in small villages up the mountains, to young artists in art galleries in city centers. I collect beautiful painted eggs to decorate our house each time I get a chance. Most of them are painted on real egg shells and are very vulnerable. Now and then I cry because one has cracked and didn’t survive the winter in the attic. Some are painted on wooden eggs, being really resistant. But somehow that feels less authentic to me than the fragile ones. I really like how these painted egg shells stand for beauty, art and vulnerability; a metaphor for life itself.
This year I displayed some of my Romanian painted eggs on a typical Dutch flower table piece. It feels homely, warm and festive. It is of course a weird year, the second weird Easter in a row with this covid situation. But we painted some eggs, we made cozonac and we had the traditional Dutch Easter brunch. The first Easter feels good!
Because of the use of two different calendars, the Julian and Gregorian one, the way Easter is calculated means that Orthodox Easter usually follows the Catholic/Protestant a week later. Sometimes the difference isfive weeks and so it is this year. That is why this year I will be sharing five weeks long stories about Romanian Easter and traditions, to bridge the long gap between the two Easter celebrations. This is part one.