Legend has it that after the Resurrection and Ascension Mary Magdalene went to tell the Roman Emperor, with an egg in hand. She greeted him with the words “Christ has risen!”. He didn’t believe her at first and said that He has risen no more than the egg she carried was red. Then, as a sign of God, it turned red revealing the truth in her words.
Another legend suggests a bit different story but the main point – the egg turning red proclaiming the Resurrection – is the same. But why eggs? The egg has long been a symbol of fertility and new life but in Orthodox beliefs its shell symbolizes the stone at the entrance of Christ’s tomb and the egg itself represents the empty tomb. In addition the red egg symbolizes the blood of Christ.
One of the most famous traditions in Bulgaria is painting eggs for Easter. This is done every year on Holy Thursday or Holy Saturday. The first egg is always red and is for Mary and Christ. But even if you’re not that religious painting eggs has turned into a symbol of Easter for Bulgarians. Children love mixing different colours and drawing various figures with wax on the boiled eggs. And the best part comes on Easter morning. First parents ‘draw’ a cross on their children’s forehead with the first egg – for health and prosperity throughout the year. Then comes the battle with eggs where basically two ‘opponents’ see whose egg is the strongest. One of them hits with his egg the other’s on one end and then the other does the same on the other end. The egg that breaks loses and the one that remains unbroken is the “beater”.
Apart from eating eggs (obviously) we Bulgarians like to treat ourselves with our special Easter sweet bread kozunak. If you’d like to learn more about it and how to make it, click here. There’s nothing more delicious than breakfast on Easter with warm, tasty kozunak and a cup of hot chocolate.
Of course, everyone chooses what to believe in and it’s not necessary to be, say it, a strict Orthodox christian to enjoy Easter traditions. For me the significance that stands behind this painting-eggs tradition is the simple act of doing something you enjoy with your family, exchanging these eggs as a present with your friends and just having fun with the people you love. Because no matter the religion and occasion, holidays are partly made to give and receive love.
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