Eggs are everywhere you look at the moment! You can’t go a day without seeing or hearing about them in a variety of forms, many of which are symbolic. But what exactly is hiding under that shell?
First and foremost, eggs symbolize life, and fertility and richness along with it. However, they are also associated with production and renewal – which explains their omnipresence during the springtime when nature is reborn. What’s more, many people believe their oval shape represents infinity and the cycle of life itself.
The tradition of gifting eggs at Easter dates back many years. However, in Ancient times they weren’t made of chocolate! The Persians, Egyptians, and Romans would exchange real eggs during the first days of spring as a symbol of good fortune to come. From the Middle Ages up until the 17th century, it was forbidden to eat eggs during Lent. But that didn’t mean the hens stopped laying! Instead being left to rot, the eggs were stored and painted different colors to celebrate Easter, using natural dyes such as onion, beetroot, ivy, and radish tops.
The original chocolatiers in the 18th century were the first to think of emptying the contents of eggs by piercing two tiny holes, before filling the shells with melted chocolate. Later, during the 19th century, they began filling molds with the same substance (made using powdered chocolate, cocoa butter, and sugar) to create the shape of an egg. New types of molds were soon developed, first in the shape of chickens, followed by other festive symbols such as bells and representations of animals such as bunnies and ducks. Needless to say, the children were delighted!
Decorating eggs as part of Easter celebrations is an institution in eastern countries, and the finished pieces are nothing short of works of art. The techniques have been meticulously developed, and the painting is often done according to ingenious methods. They include pencil-drawing, storing in wax, dyeing, stenciling, and creating symbolic patterns and geometric shapes, which can all be applied before or after cooking. While red was the traditional color used, today everyone lets their imaginations run wild with a whole palette of different shades. The result is a collection of magnificently decorated, festive eggs!
No study of eggs would be complete without showcasing those crafted by jeweler Peter Carl Fabergé, born in Saint Petersburgh (just like Kusmi!). It all began in 1885, when the Tsar Alexander III decided to commission a decorative egg as a gift for his wife, Maria Feodorovna. The result was truly impressive! The platinum “chicken’s egg” opened to reveal a “yoke” and a tiny golden hen, along with a miniature version of the imperial crown set with diamonds. With this first success, a tradition was born. Fabergé went on to put his imagination and limitless skills to work every year to surprise the imperial family. The tsar’s son, Nicholas II, then continued the custom by giving his wife, Alexandra Feodorovna, and his mother a Fabergé egg every year.
To round things off, here are a few egg-based expressions we have all used at some point, proving how omnipresent these little ovals really are!
- He’s a tough egg to crack.
- As sure as eggs is eggs.
- You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.
- Walking on eggshells.
- You can’t teach your grandmother to suck eggs!