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Easter eggs

Decoration of Easter eggs is a very ancient custom. At the foot of the Gediminas hill in Vilnius archaeologists have found eggs made of bone and clay, which shows that this custom was known in Lithuania as early as the 13th century. Easter eggs are mentioned by Martynas Mazvydas in his dedication to his book "Hymns of St. Ambrosius" (1549). Easter eggs were particularly popular at the turn of the 20th century. They were decorated both by the grown-ups and the children, by the rich and the poor. Some were dyed in a single colour, some were decorated in patterns. Decorations were produced by painting pat- terns on a warm egg with the tip of a stick or a pinhead dipped in hot wax. Droplet-shaped strokes were grouped in patterns, twigs of rue, little suns, starlets, and snakes. The most frequent pattern was that of a sun, like those on large and small distaffs. Smaller patterns were joined by dots and wavy lines into larger ornaments. Their combinations were so varied that it was impossible to find two identical Easter eggs. Every village had its own best egg-decorators.

The painting of decorations in wax completed, the egg was dipped in black, brown, red or green dye. Up until the beginning of the 20th century natural dyeing materials were used such as onion peel, birch leaves, hay, oak or alder bark. Very popular was the black dye produced by soaking and boiling a mixture of alder bark and rust. Dyed eggs were placed in a hot oven or hot water for the wax to melt. Patterns in several colours were produced by painting them with wax on a lighter colour and placing the egg in a darker dye. Similar patterns could also be scraped with the tip of a knife.

Many nations believed that eggs, particularly decorated eggs, had a magic power. When the animals were first driven to pastures in spring, the farmer's wife used to place an egg on the threshold to keep them in good shape. The farmer used to place an egg in the first furrow ploughed in spring to ensure a good harvest.



next previous contents
Next: Straw compositions Previous: Pottery

J. Kudirka "THE LITHUANIANS"

Copyright ©, 1996 Lithuanian Folk Culture Centre.