April 4, 2012 at 4:05 PM

The Extraordinary Easter Egg

"Throughout history, people around the world have been decorating eggs to honor the arrival of spring"

By Lynn Cline

Gourmet Girl

Lynn Cline is a former food editor and the author of two books – Romantic Days and Nights in Santa Fe and Literary Pilgrims: The Santa Fe and Taos Writers' Colonies, 1915-1950. She also loves to cook, when not dining out.

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Have you ever wondered why we decorate eggs every Easter, breaking open the PAAS egg decorating kit so we can paint the shells, accessorizing them with stickers, ribbons, lace and other lovely baubles? Filling the Easter baskets of millions of children with decorated eggs, along with chocolate rabbits, marshmallow chicks and jelly beans in every color...

Throughout history, people around the world have been decorating eggs to honor the arrival of spring. Eggs have long been considered a symbol of rebirth and renewal. As early as 5,000 BC, eggs were exchanged as a sign of friendship during spring equinox festivals — colored, blessed, gifted and eaten as part of the rites of spring.

The ancient Zoroastrians painted eggs for Nowrooz,k their New Year celebration, held on the spring equinox. During the early Christian era, eggs were forbidden during Lent, making them all that more desirable when the 40 days of fasting were over. The Christians adopted the egg as a symbol of the resurrection of Christ, who rose from a sealed tomb in the same way a bird breaks through an eggshell at birth.

In Slavic Europe, people took baskets of eggs, breads and other foods to church to be blessed on Holy Saturday or before Easter midnight mass, then served them for Easter breakfast. In Poland and Ukrania, eggs have a long tradition of being elaborately decorated for Easter, using a wax pencil, or stylus, with every line and dot given a particular meaning.

Yugoslavian eggs are decorated with "XV," which stands for "Christ is Risen." In Russia, during the rule of the tsars from the 1880s until 1917, Easter was celebrated with more fanfare than Christmas, featuring Easter breads and other foods as well as decorated eggs exchanged as gifts. The royal families often gave jeweled eggs made by goldsmith Carl Faberge.

In Germany, Easter eggs are blown to empty them out, and the shells are painted and decorated with pieces of lace, cloth or ribbon and hung with ribbons on an evergreen or small tree, which village girls used to carry from house to house in Moravia on the third Sunday before Easter. German settlers in America, including those who became known as Pennsylvania Dutch, brought this tradition to America, along with the legend of the Easter bunny who delivers colored eggs to children.  

In China, red colored eggs are given to children on their birthdays, since red symbolizes happiness and long life. The Persians also have given gilded and elaborately painted eggs for thousands of years.

In Germany and England, celebrants hold an egg dance, where eggs are placed on the ground and the dancers have to move around them, trying not to break them.

In New Mexico, cascarones are emptied eggs stuffed with confetti that are hidden, then broken over people's heads when they are discovered. Santa Fe hosts a Baile de Cascarones (Dance of the Eggshells) . The event preserves and promotes the traditional music and dances of Spanish Folklore, and includes the custom of breaking decorated eggs filled with confetti above a lady's head as a way of winning her as a dance partner. The ball takes place April 14 from 7 to 11 p.m. at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center and will feature live music and traditional dances, including the popular Baile de Escoba, La Raspa and El Vaquero. Decorated eggs will be sold by Members of the Sociedad, which sponsors the event. Click here for more info.

On Easter in Santa Fe, the Bishop's Lodge Ranch, Resort & Spa hosts an Easter egg hunt, a visit from the Easter Bunny, an Easter Bonnet Contest, live entertainment and a brunch featuring fresh oysters, crab legs, roasted leg of lamb and other Easter fare. The festivities take place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, April 8.  For reservations, call 819-4035.  Click here for more info.

Or you can celebrate on the Santa Fe Southern Railway's Easter Trains, starting on Saturday, April 7 with a train ride to Lamy from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.. Visit with the Easter Bunny and hunt for Easter eggs in Lamy. On Easter Sunday, ride the train with the Easter Bunny to Lamy then enjoy an  Easter brunch at The Legal Tender, followed by a hunt for Easter eggs. For more info, visit www.sfsr.coml

Many restaurants around the city host special Easter brunches, so check websites and the SantaFe.com calendar for more info.

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