We mark Easter with an Orthodox tradition from Romania: beautifully decorated Easter Eggs and some of the legends surrounding this ancient art. Easter is the most important religious celebration in Romania, and its traditions go beyond Christian dogmas to pagan rituals, myths of creation, and symbols of life.
According to one local legend, during Pesach (the Hebrew Passover), Virgin Mary came to see her crucified son. She carried a basket with eggs, which she laid at the foot of the cross while praying for Christ. His holy blood dropped on the eggs and reddened them, so the Lord said:
From now on you shall paint the eggs in red to remember my crucifixion.
According to this legend, there should be no other colors used to decorate the eggs for Easter. Many households keep the tradition by the book, while others follow trendier, Western influences. Still, the meaning of Easter is preserved, and the tradition of decorating eggs is ancestral.
Decorated Easter eggs were believed to hold magic powers, and some people still adhere to superstition. Their preparation involved special rituals: each color or pattern used was meant to combat a different form of evil. Many peasants today still believe that painted eggs bring luck and protect their homes against demons and unholy spirits. The shells of the Easter eggs are blessed, they should not be thrown away, but sprinkled over the soil in gardens for fertility and richer crops.
In some parts of Romania (especially in the North in a region called Maramures – where you can also find the Wooden Churches and the Merry Cemetery of Sapanta, newly wedded couples keep painted eggs in their homes as charms that protect and bring equilibrium and happiness in marriage.
While the Christian symbol of the egg is related to the resurrection of Christ, the primordial meanings are still potted in the motifs, colors, and patterns that transform these eggs, as you see, in genuine works of art.
It takes a long time, talent and patience to decorate Easter eggs in the traditional Romanian fashion. First, they are emptied of their contents and covered with a thin layer of bee wax. Then the meticulous work can begin. Using special tools like “chisita” women “write” the motifs in vegetal (natural) colors. Each element has a meaning, and nothing is left to chance.
A Romanian painted egg tells you a story if you know how to read it. Among the many stylized motifs, you’ll often find the tree of life, the Sun and the Star, the Cross, the Rooster, the Snake, as well as oak leaves, waves, spirals and much more. Each egg is unique. Each egg is special.