Photographs Contributed by Britney B.
It’s Spring and I’m happy to be spending a week’s holiday in England. The weather is glorious, blossom is on the trees, the daffodils and tulips are in full bloom, and lambs are gamboling in the fields. It’s also Easter and the shops are full of chocolate eggs and bunnies and hot cross buns. What could be nicer, though my waistline is suffering I’m sure.
The word 'Easter' is thought to have derived from the name of a Saxon lunar Goddess, Eostre, who was widely worshipped at this time of year in pagan times. Incidentally we also get the name of the female hormone, estrogen, from this entity. Eostre’s chief symbols were the bunny (both for fertility and because her worshipers saw a hare in the full moon) and the egg (symbolic of the egg of creation). Her holiday, the Eostara, was held on the Vernal Equinox Full Moon. It is believed that when cristianty took hold, the church was reluctant to deprive the pagans of their Eostara festival and set the date of the passion on the Sunday after the 14th day of the March moon, which is why Easter as we know it is a movable holiday.
The egg, the symbol of fertility and new life, is the one most associated with Easter, and people all over the world have versions of the Easter egg tradition. Originally in Britain eggs were painted bright colors to represent the sunlight of Spring and were used in egg rolling contests or given as gifts, particularly to lovers in much the same way as valentines. In parts of Europe ferns and tiny plants are fastened around the eggs, which are then boiled and the plants removed to reveal striking white patterns. Eastern Europeans decorate their eggs in special patterns in a distinctive manner known as pysanki (to design, to write). Melted beeswax is applied to the white egg. It is then dipped in successive baths of dye and after each dip wax is painted over the area where the preceding color is to remain. Eventually a complex pattern of lines and colors emerges into a work of art.
You can learn how to create pysanki eggs at Dhahran Art Group classes. They hold regular workshops on this subject and you may view their newsletters and information about joining the group under Clubs in the Aramco ExPats web site.
But let’s not forget the most famous eggs of all which were made by the jeweler, Faberge, for the Russian royal family in the nineteenth century. The Faberge eggs, made from silver, gold, copper, nickel, and palladium, began in 1884 with an Easter egg created for Czar Alexander III that became a gift for his wife, Czarina Maria. The Czarina was so delighted that from then on it was agreed that Faberge would make an Easter egg each year for Maria. Faberge designed Easter eggs for another eleven years until Alexander III died. Then Nicholas II, Alexander's son, continued the tradition. It was agreed that the Easter gift would always have an egg shape and would hold a surprise. These projects became the top priority of the company and were planned and worked on for a year or more in advance. The designs for the Imperial eggs were inspired by historical art works that Faberge imitated, copied from his travels or from the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg, and the surprise inside was always kept secret.. He also fashioned eggs to commemorate the coronation of Czar Nicholas II, the completion of the Trans Siberian Railway, and royal anniversaries. There were eggs depicting the Imperial yacht, cathedrals and palaces, and during the time of war, the Red Cross and the military. Faberge made fifty six Imperial eggs, only forty-four of which have been located today, so if you have any of the missing twelve lurking in your attic you may be a very rich person.