Whether decorating, rolling or hunting them, eggs are part of the Easter tradition
If you want to blame anyone for putting on a few pounds over the weekend, point the finger at the Pagans. Or the Europeans who stimulated a sweet tooth the Victorians never knew they had.
Initially, though, it was the Pagans who saw the spring as a time of rebirth, and nothing says new life quite like an egg. Over time, the Christians embraced the symbolism, seeing it as a representation of Jesus emerging from his tomb, and although eating eggs was forbidden during Lent, come Easter Sunday any gathered would be presented to friends, family and Church leaders.
Fast forward to the 19th Century and the Victorians took the concept of ‘Easter eggs’ a step further, making them from cardboard which was covered with satin and ribbon and filled with gifts. At this time, the French and Germans were crafting and gifting chocolate eggs, a custom which, like many Christmas practices, was further developed in Britain, with Fry producing the nation’s first chocolate egg in 1873.
It was also the Victorians who gradually moved Easter away from being a sombre religious and communal celebration to one more centred on the family. Key to that was the Easter egg hunt, a tradition introduced by Queen Victoria’s German-born mother and continued by her husband, Prince Albert, who hid eggs in little moss baskets around Kensington Palace.
It really doesn’t matter whether chocolate or hand-decorated hard-boiled eggs are used for the hunt, although for longer-lasting, effect, and more vivid colours, create a pace egg.
Derived from ‘paschal’ – the Latin name for Easter – the hard-boiled eggs can be hidden around the house or garden, or even rolled in a race as practised annually on the White House lawn in Washington. The eggs can be boiled with a colourant (such as cochineal, turmeric or the skins from three large onions), along with a tablespoon of white wine vinegar, and once cooled, smeared with flavourless oil which, when gently wiped off, leaves a shine.
Alternatively, thin strips of dyed rags tied round the eggs before boiling will give a marbled effect as the colour runs from the material.
Obviously, these more robust eggs are perfect for outdoor activities. For indoor decorations, a blown egg is lighter and more adaptable, although the first part of the process needs an adult’s steadier hand.
To start, sit your egg in an egg box to keep it still and carefully push a safety pin as far as it will go into the centre of the top. Take a toothpick, insert it and gently stir to help break up the yolk, and once done, flip the egg and repeat, but this time try to make the hole a little larger. Hold the egg over a measuring jug with the larger hole facing down and, using a straw, blow through the opposite hole to release first the egg white, then the yolk.
It may take a while to get going, but you’ll know when it’s empty when you’re left with bubbles of egg white followed by air. The shells can then be cleaned under hot water, dried and carefully decorated with marker pens, glitter or whatever takes your youngster’s fancy – for paint, though, the best results come when the shell is wrapped in paper mache and left to dry.
And, at the end of the day, you can always rustle up an omelette …