The meaning of colors
We use different colors to paint the eggs and every color symbolizes something: red means fire, sun; black means absolutism, eternity; yellow is happiness and youth; green means spring, freshness and fertility; blue is health and vitality. In the past people were painting eggs with natural colors, but nowadays they use synthetic colors.
Anyway we can still see eggs painted with natural colors in outlying villages from Bucovina, Moldova and Ardeal.
Natural colors are prepared beyond some old recipes, based on a great variety of procedures and techniques. Red is obtained from bark of apple tree, leaves and flower of apple, flowers of marjoram and bark of sweet briar. Blue is made of violas, green is obtained from walnut leaves, alder bark, bark and buds of crab and yellow is obtained from onion skin and crab bark. Egg ornamentation is extremely varied, containing geometrical, vegetal, animal, anthropomorphist and religious symbols:
The straight, vertical lines mean life;
- Straight horizontal lines mean death;
Double straight lines mean eternity;
- Curly lines mean water and purification;
The snail-like line means time, eternity;
- Double snail lines mean the bond between life and death.
How it's done
In egg painting, the main tools used are traceries such as points, oak leaves, the fir, the sweet briar` s flower, the wheat, shofars, the fish, the star of the three kings or Easter`s cross (in Oltenia and Vrancea). There are also the snake, the rake, the pitchfork, the distaff, the primrose, the grape, the rein and the window (in region of Bran).
Painting eggs is a custom passed on from generation to generation, but because time is passing and world is changing, the techniques and models of Easter eggs are changing too. For example, nowadays eggs are painted only as an ornament and those made for everyone`s table are painted in one single color. The first ones are made from wood or from hen eggs rendered innocuous and covered with a layer of beeswax for making them more resistant. Other techniques include the ornamentation with beadwork. Anyway the most encountered eggs are those with religious symbols or representations of icons.
Other well-known method in Romania is painting eggs with onion leaves. Those eggs are painted by putting some leaves on their surface and then they are put in a hosiery. Then it is introduced in a mug with paint or onion leaves. If you want the egg to be painted in more colors, then you should immerse the eggs deeper and deeper, after you „write” the traceries with beeswax. For the obliteration of the beeswax, you should put the egg next to a source of heat and clean it with a toweling. Then you must smear the egg with oil or grease for making it shine.
Depending on the regions of the country, there are other proceedings for egg painting. In some regions, boiled eggs are used, in others the eggs are rendered innocuous. Ornamental eggs are made with traceries in relief (Vrancea, Putna Sucevei), trimmed with beadwork (Bucovina), made from wood (Neamt), from clay (Corund - Harghita) or even plastic (Bucovina).
In Transilvania and Banat egg painting is different because of the variety of colors and models. Tara Barsei is well-known for its design, and its very well polished chromatics.
The ”inchistrit” of eggs (the old, Romanian word for egg painting) is made with melted beeswax, written on the egg with ”chisita” (a kind of pen with pig hair tied in top of a stick made of fir wood). The traditional technique says that only the egg is moved, not the instrument. Now it`s also used the nib, in order to paint the eggs with Indian ink.
The techniques are very different, but the most used technique covering the eggs with a layer of beeswax, then by diving them into paint (first yellow paint, then red, green, blue and black).
In the first day of Easter, the eggs are hurtled only with their tops. They are hurtled till the third day of Easter, following a well-known ritual: the oldest person hurtles the egg while saying: ”Hristos a înviat!” (”Jesus has resurrected!”) and the others say: ”Adevarat a înviat!” (”It`s true He resurrected!”).
Let's start with Slovenia
Slovenian artist, Franc Grom creates egg art that can compete with Fabergé eggs in their unique beauty. In fact, he continues old traditions in modern art. He uses an electric drill to pierce shells and make his works even more sophisticated. Being hand-made, Grom’s eastern eggs are very precious and couldn’t be compared with any of mass devices.
He is famous for his talent, creativeness, using of modern technologies and, most important, patience. The results are stunning and as laborious as the finest of craftsmen from centuries past. The eggs that Grom creates have approximately 2,500 to 3,500 holes. Inspired by traditional Slovenian designs, he has been known to pierce a shell as many as 17,000 times.
Who would have thought that something so delicate could be made even more fragile and precious?
Next we check out Russia
In the Russian Orthodox calendar, Easter is the most important holiday. Without the pure religious rituals which are exactly as in Romania, for Easter, there are a lot of traditions and customs. Egg painting in Russia is one of Easter`s primary tradition. The most frequent color used for egg painting is red. The red paint symbolizes Jesus Christ`s blood. Moreover, Russians crack the eggs using nails, tradition that reminds us about the Crucifixion of Jesus.
The same methods to paint are used in Romania, but in Russia they use goose and ostrich eggs. For doing this you must be patient, meticulous and you must have an extraordinary good taste.
The technique is old and for it`s realization two things are necessary: beeswax and many bright colours, which will compose a special chromatic touch. As a working instrument a stick is used, which is as big as a pencil ann has some horse hair acrose the top. This instrument is used to paint geometrical and floral traceries in successive layers, depending on colours. All these layers are protected by beeswax.
Russia also has the celebrated Fabergé workshops which created exquisite jewelled Easter eggs for the Russian Imperial Court. You can read more about this in the Fabergé section.
Now we head over to Greece, Austria, Romania and Germany
In Greece eggs are painted in red in order to remember the Christians about Jesus Christ`s blood, poured for people`s salvation. The eggs are simple or painted with Jesus`s or Virgin Mary`s faces on them and the Crucifixion`s cross. Slav people were using special methods; they were painting the eggs in gold or silver. In Germany, there is an ”Easter Tree” in each house made of flowery branches trimmed with eggs or rabbits made of plastic or wood, both colored.
Another method is used in Austria and Romania. The eggs are painted with natural products like onion skin. These eggs are trimmed by putting some leaves on their shells, before boiling in the water mixed with onion leaves. Romania and other neighbouring contries are proud of the handicraft of painting eggs for Easter, a complex and meticulous technique, named Pysanka. A pysanka (Ukrainian: писанка, plural: pysanky) is a Ukrainian Easter egg, decorated using a wax-resist (batik) method. The word comes from the verb pysaty, "to write", as the designs are not painted on, but written with beeswax.
And last but no least, Poland, Belgium and Hungary
In Poland eggs are painted during the spring. In some regions the painting is made during the period between the half of the fast till the Palm Sunday, and in others till the Ascension. In people`s faith and rituals, painted eggs represent the power of nature to resurrect. The egg has the power to purify and to determine the bad spirits to disappear.
In Belgium, they make chocolate egg trimmed with sugar figures. In the early XIX century the legend was that in the tower of Saint Marguerite church, in Liege, a crow which was flying during the night of the Big Friday was laying a gold egg in the attic of a dweller. That`s why people leave their windows open that night.
In Hungary people were writing rhymes on the eggs and then the girls were giving them to the boys. In fact, nowadays the eggs are personalized with a signature or initials. Interesting is the fact that we encounter the same traceries for egg painting: geometrical and floral traceries.
There are many other decorating techniques and numerous traditions of giving them as a token of friendship, love or good wishes. A tradition exists in some parts of the United Kingdom (such as Scotland and North East England) of rolling painted eggs down steep hills on Easter Sunday.
An Easter egg hunt is a common festive activity, where eggs are hidden outdoors (or indoors if in bad weather) for children to run around and find. The egg usually has the child's name written on it. This may also be a contest to see who can collect the most eggs. Each egg has usually one color, sometimes with patterns made from candle drip. The patterns are not meant to be symmetrical; the main idea is to expand the children's creativity.
The great tradition to give eggs for Easter goes back to ancient times. In Russia Tsars always presented painted eggs to their confidants. Among the Easter eggs, the world famous name was gained by Fabergé` s firm that created eggs with surprises from gold, silver and precious stones. The first Fabergé eggs were produced in 1884 for the Tsar Alexander III. The series of Imperial Easter Fabergé eggs is the most ambitious project ever entrusted to a goldsmith. The only conditions set appear to have been an oviform shape, a surprise of some form, and no repetitions.
Surprises were frequently linked to some occurrence in the history of the Imperial Family — births, anniversaries, inaugurations. Some bear royal monograms or dates, and many exhibit miniatures of the Imperial children, or their abodes. Two contain models of Imperial vessels. Fabergé took this commission extremely seriously, often planning eggs years ahead of time. Some did indeed require several years to finish. Much secrecy surrounded the surprise in the Fabergé eggs, which was never divulged in advance, not even to the Tsar himself. The solemn presentation of the egg was made by Fabergé or by his son Eugene, and the recipient was invariably delighted.
The first two Fabergé eggs, each with a hen motif, appear to have been designed and produced under close supervision. In the following years a certain dependence on earlier models can be detected. By the mid-1890s, however, the designs of the eggs become increasingly audacious.
Easter eggs are well-known Russian memorabilia, whose fame outside the country is probably seconded only by the wooden matryoshka dolls. Lately, however, the interest toward the Easter egg has been of a special nature. It is explained by its somewhat illegal status during 70 years. Antique Easter eggs were stored away in different museums, almost inaccessible to the public. It goes without saying that in Soviet times the good tradition of giving and receiving artistically painted Easter eggs on the bright holiday of Christ's Resurrection almost disappeared. In the late 1980s forgotten customs and rituals returned, including the old Russian tradition of a triple kiss and the giving of an Easter egg.
Today, Fabergé eggs and pendants, jewels boxes and photo frames made in Fabergé style are priceless masterpieces and reminders of Imperial Russia.
Russia also has other techniques of egg painting which you can find in the site's Around the world section.
See painting techniques from around the world
There are countless ways to paint eggs, whether it's tradition or just a personal touch, but few know how to actually do it. A big "Thank you!" to those who took the time to show us how we can make our own Easter eggs!
See below a couple of tutorials that will certainly help you make some really unique Easter eggs:
1.How to make Tartan Easter eggs:
This tutorial was made with the help of Irene Zeleskou from Greece, and you can also see it on her DeviantART account.
2. How to color Easter eggs with onion skins:
This tutorial was made with the help of Vein from Estonia, and you can also see it on her DeviantART account.