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How to make an Easter egg

Learn about the history of easter eggs and different techniques to make your own

a pile of differently coloured and speckled candy eggs stretches into the background

You might have heard of the age-old adage 'What came first: the chicken or the egg?'. It's a philosophical question about the beginning of life and the universe, to which, depending on your religion or philosophy, there are myriad different answers. The powerful symbolism of eggs has been amplified by decorating and displaying them, a practice that is centuries old. The oldest known Easter eggs, more than 5,000 years old, come from Sumerian Mesopotamia. From the fertile crescent the custom of decorating eggs spread all over Europe, where it is cultivated to this day.

an old yellowed photograph is pasted on a paper frame. Theblack and white photograph depicts 25 decorated easter eggs arranged in rows of five.

The Easter egg, blessed on Easter Saturday, along with other products, is shared by the family at an Easter breakfast, which is impossible to imagine without eggs. The oldest Polish Easter eggs come from the 10th century.

Initially, only women were involved in decorating eggs, and men were not even allowed to enter the room, lest they cast a spell on the Easter egg. Easter eggs are a symbol of fertility and rebirth. In Christianity, they are associated with the resurrection of Christ. Christians have been decorating Easter Eggs with other Christian symbols such as crosses or the lamb of God.

three eggs are arranged next to each other, two with a pink dye and one with a blue dye. They're intricately decorated and patterned, one shows the word 'Alleluja' while the other shows the Lamb of God, a white lamb with a golden halo bleeding from the chest and holding a flag with the Christian cross on it.
Several brown eggs with white decoration are arranged in a yellow woven basket. The eggs say 'Alleluja!' and depict lambs.
outside scene, on a long white table tens of easter baskets are arranged, colourful eggs and decorations spilling out of them. A crowd of people is amassed around the table, on the left hand side a priest dressed in white has his arms raised, blessing the baskets.

How to create your own easter egg

Colouring

The easiest way to decorate your egg without having to blow it out is by changing its colour by boiling it in a coloured broth or using other natural dyes.

 several monocoloured easter eggs are arranged in a green ceramic bowl, with a vase of tulips in the background out of focus. The eggs are red, orange, green, yellow or blue.

You can make your egg brown by cooking it with the outer layer of onions. Your egg will become black if you boil it with oak bark or walnut shells. Yellow eggs are created by boiling them with turmeric. Your egg will turn blue if you rub it with cornflower flowers or put it in blueberry juice. Stain your egg pink with beetroot juice, orange with carrot juice, or red with hibiscus tea.

close up of several glass jam jars half-filled with liquid in different colours, a spoon sitting in every jar. An easter egg floats in one of the jars, red dye staining its surface.

Scratching

Once your egg has been coloured, you can further decorate it by scratching patterns into the shell. The pattern will be nicely visible if you use white eggs that you've dyed in dark colours. It's easier to scratch into goose or ostrich eggs since they have harder shells. Use a knife or a razor to carefully scratch the patterns into your egg.

a sketch with different patterns to use to decorate your easter egg

Patterns

For more complicated designs, you can cover the egg with patterns of coloured paper, flower petals, yarn, coloured thread, fabric, lace or even seeds.

Batik

This technique involves applying heated wax to the eggshell using a pin or other tool. Then the egg is cooked in the selected dye. In the cooking process, the wax dissolves, but the pattern is not covered with paint.

In the case of blown eggs, the wax-coated egg is immersed in the dye without boiling it, then dried.

Finally, the wax is removed mechanically from the blown egg or melted over the candle flame.

This technique can be repeated with different patterns and colours to achieve beautiful intricate multicoloured easter eggs. The decorations people create differ from region to region, cultivating local traditions. Nowadays, you can easily decorate easter eggs by just using paint and paintbrushes, but these traditional techniques have survived for centuries and are still used by many around Easter time. How do you decorate your eggs?


This blog was written as part of the Crafted project, a Generic Service project aimed at enriching and promoting traditional and contemporary crafts. Read more about this project on Europeana Pro, and find all editorial from Crafted on the Making Culture feature page

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