Where does the tradition of eating eggs at Easter come from? We’re glad you asked…
Pancake Day on Shrove Tuesday is a time to use up all the eggs, milk and butter before the 40 days of fasting during Lent. The day is also known as Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday”, which is the highlight of the carnival season.
While both the Western and Eastern churches frowned on the eating of eggs during Lent, no one can stop hens laying them. One way to preserve them is by hard boiling. On Easter Sunday, the surplus eggs are used up in traditional recipes such as the Spanish hornazo, or Italy’s Pani di Pasqua.
The hardboiled eggs are often decorated, with the color red symbolising Christ’s blood and the cracking of the egg recalling the opening of His Tomb on Easter Sunday. It was a short step from eating lots of eggs to making them even more of a treat by making them out of chocolate, and then filling them with other sweet treats to further mark the joy of the disciples on finding the tomb empty.
Lavishly decorated eggs –pysanky – remain a feature of Easter in the Eastern Orthodox church, particularly in Ukraine. For ten days, Kyiv hosts an Egg Festival that shows off the decoration style of various regions, as well as the world’s largest egg. On Easter Sunday, a special mass is followed by a long family meal that breaks the Easter fast in a big way. Fortunately, the following Monday is a public holiday, so people have a day off to recover.
Traditionally, pysanky are raw eggs that, once decorated, are never eaten, while krashanka are the hard-boiled eggs dyed a solid color, normally red, and eaten for Easter breakfast. The shells of krashanka are considered a good luck charm and will be put into roofs to bless the house or into fields to ensure a good crops.
Ukraine follows the Julian calendar for its dates of Easter, rather than the Gregorian one. That means Easter is a month or more later than in the Western church.