It’s nearly Easter, so it’s time to think about the history of the Easter egg and gifts that might be suitable for an Easter present.
But first, why do we have eggs at Easter and why do we often paint or dye them?
Decorating eggshells of all sizes is an ancient ritual. Decorated ostrich eggs have been found in Africa that have been dated to 60,000 years old. These eggshells were used as flasks to carry water and allowed people to live in hostile desert environments.
For thousands of years, eggs have been associated with death and rebirth. In Mesopotamia and Crete, richly decorated ostrich eggs, and representations of them in gold and silver, were commonly placed in graves. Early Christians adopted this as a way of celebrating Easter with eggs symbolising the empty tomb of Jesus with the eggs stained red “in memory of the blood of Christ, shed as at that time of his crucifixion.”
The Easter egg tradition may also have merged into the celebration of the end of the privations and fasting of Lent. At the beginning of Lent there is the tradition of Pancake Day, and opportunity to use all the eggs and dairy in the home after which none were consumed until Easter.
Eating Easter Eggs
And during Lent, since chickens would not stop producing eggs, a large store of them were often available at the end of the fast. These needed to be eaten quickly to prevent spoiling. So at Easter, the eating of eggs resumes and ways needed to be found to use them, and not always as painted gifts! Some families cook a special meatloaf with eggs in it to be eaten with the Easter dinner. And hard boiling eggs during Lent would have preserved them. In Hungary, eggs are used sliced in potato casseroles for Easter while the Spanish have a dish called hornazo that contains hard-boiled eggs as the main ingredient.
But perhaps the most famous Easter eggs are the Fabergé eggs made under the supervision of Peter Carl Fabergé for the Russian Tsars Alexander III and Nicholas II as Easter gifts for their wives and mothers.
The first Fabergé egg had a white enamelled shell that opened to reveal a yellow-gold yolk, which in turn opened to reveal a multi-coloured gold hen that also opens. The hen contained a minute diamond replica of the imperial crown from which a small ruby pendant was suspended. For the next 30-years until the Russian revolution Fabergé made eggs for the royal family.
Fabergé was appointed “goldsmith by special appointment to the Imperial Crown”, and today you too can give an Easter gift made by Hersey & Son members of the Goldsmiths Company.
We have three styles of silver egg cup that can be personalised with an engraved name and message. Follow the link to see them.