The Holy Week & the Easter eggs

Great Lent or the Great Fast  is the most important fasting season in the lithurgical year in Eastern Christianity. Holy Week (LatinHebdomas Sancta ) in Christianity is the last week of Lent and the week before Easter. It includes Palm SundayMaundy Thursday (Holy Thursday), Good Friday and Holy Saturday. It does not include Easter Sunday
Maundy Thursday (also known as Holy Thursday orThursday of Mysteries) is the Christian feast, or holy day, falling on the Thursday before Easter. It commemorates the Maundy and Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles and celebrates the institution of the Eucharist. 

Romania has a very own traditional Easter dish: a bread called pascapainted eggsEaster lamb(most usually being roasted), boiled hamcozonac(a sweet bread with walnuts and rahat for dessert)drob de miel,  Easter salad  and few other meals ( lamb soup or Magiritsa (while traditional magiritsa includes all the lamb offal available,  the head and neck of the lamb are most commonly used today)stufat (lambonion and garlic stew),  horseradish sauce(made from grated horseradish root, vinegar and cream) being an influence of the Austrian-Hungarian cuisine, especially in the N-W part of the Romania).
I'll speak today just about Easter eggs. The other  Easter dishes  will have their rightful place on the World's pot. I assure you.
Easter eggs are a popular symbol of new life, of new beginnings in Romania and other  folk traditions of the Central European countries.  In the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches, red Easter eggs  represent the blood of Christ.
After tousands of years, the religious beliefs of the Romanians are almost the same with those belonging to the ancients. They still paint eggs at the beginning of spring, for the most central and festive holiday of the entire lithurgical calendar: Easter. 
Egg painting, by  a rare artistic refinement and balance, is combined with numerous pre-Christian beliefs and customs. It's a  substitute for that divine primordial egg after all and, is always painted only in the Holy Week.
The egg is chosen on Wednesday (Miercurea Părăsimilor), in the middle of Lent, is cooked and painted on Thursday (in Holy Week) and eaten on Easter Sunday. Through this ritual, the ancient believed that time and  space die and reborn with the worshiped divinity year by year.
In ancient times, the only accepted color was red but, over the time, other colors were also allowed – yellow, green, blue and even black.
Romania has a particularity of this custom, the folklore and ancient decorative motifs used  being of a rare beauty.
In Wallachia and Oltenia(the South part of Romania) the ornaments are naturalistic but with fewer colors.The Obaga center from the Olt County was brought this popular custom at the art level. In Transylvania and Banat (the West areas of Romania) are distinguished  variety of designs and colors.
Barsa Land(the Middle of Romania) is famous for its drawing and decorative composition by a great finesse and coloring balance.
People decorate the Easter egg, using different methods  (with colored  paints, wax,  beads and so on).
Coloring eggs using motifs  is also done with wax, the process being called "batic"(scarf). "Chisita", that tool used for this technique is a simple one: a thin metal rod stucked in a wooden tail. With this rod is applied melted wax on eggs, making various models. (The egg, devoided by content, is decorated with melted wax on areas that will remain white in the end. It's sinking then in yellow paint, removed from paint after the colored process, dried and, another layer of wax will be applied  on those areas that will remain,finally,yellow.Then the egg will be sinked in red paint. The process is repeated, depending on the number of colors we want to use, starting from lighter colors to the most intense. Finally, the wax is removed and the egg is covered with a layer of varnish which assures shine and protection to decorations.)
Usually and commonly, Eastern eggs are decorated by boiling with onion skins but, a greater variety of colour was often provided by tying the onion skin with different coloured woollen yarn.
In the rural areas of the Romania, the paint is obtained from plants, blue paint for eggs being a rare exception. 

Decorative ornaments of eggs are highly variable, from geometric shapes, plants or animals up to anthropomorphic and religious symbols.
Some symbols and meanings used are:
-vertical straight line = life
- horizontal straight line = death
-double straight line = eternity
-line with rectangles = thinking and knowledge
-slightly wavy line = water, purification
-the spiral(helix) =time, eternity
-double helix = connection between life and death

Among the most common motifs used, there are:
-The cross(the sign of Christianity)- in Muscel County is a small cross at the point of crossing of two sticks and, in those four obtained areas is a figure which, on other eggs is called "argeseanca"(from Arges County) or "Goanga ".
-the Easter Cross - a cross that Pasca is decorate with(Pasca, taken by Christians to church in the night of the Resurrection)
-the Romanian Cross and the Russian cross or the Moldavian Cross- is represented by a cross with other small crosses at its ends
-the Holy Breads' Cross - a cross thrived on the Eucharistic bread which is divided at the end of the church service
-the Star - is a widespread motif, occurs in Bukovina and throughout the Old Kingdom(vechiul Regat). In Ramnicu Sarat and Valcea County, therefore it is met with the name of  "plate's flower" or  "the star of shepherd"
-monastery - also a symbol of Christianity
-animal motifs: bee, frog, snake, lamb
-vegetal motifs: leaf tree, carnation, ear of wheat
-household and field tools: rake, shovel, plow
-industrial ornaments:motifs taken from the domestic industry(some forms taken from tailoring shirts and sleeves)
-miscellaneous: cloth bags and belt bucket of the priest, lost path, cross Easter
-popular fabric patterns, with all their repertoire of sacred signs
-'life's tree'- a vase with flowers, or a fir tree / branch
-the anthropomorphic motif is, or central, or in some compositions were  the zoomorphic motifs are just figurative(shepherd with his sheep); hedgehog is an ancient zoomorphic motif appearing besides with stars and floral motifs, being present in many mythologies as a demiurge and civilizing hero or an engineer of the Creation of the Universe. Another zoomorphic motif is cuckoo. The most important bird of the mythical Romanian folklore is present in agricultural rites, ancestors' worship, legends and poetry of love.

The symbolism of the used colors is:
-red = fire, which is purifying or blood that means... life
-blue =sky, infinity, Divinity
-green = life, growth and rebirth
-yellow =sun, wealth
-black = fertility
-white = purity
Red and blue have a special importance in decorating Easter eggs, due to the influences of the Byzantine art which gives a symbolic meaning of this Easter egg decoration.
Vegetable colors were prepared according to ancient recipes, which are based on a variety of methods and techniques: 
-red , from the fresh peel, leaves and flowers of sweet apple , oregano flowers
-blue, from the flowers of violet
-yellow, from onion shells, dog bark
-green, from the leaves of walnut tree or sunflower
-black, from the green shells of young green walnuts
Romanian peasant world is a cosmos reduced to the egg or human or the God-man's measure. This world is now endangered by the impact of modernity and postmodernity contact.
Being a process that requires certain skills, a lot of angelic patience and a real devotion, painting eggs remains a practice  reached by the very few and a custom only in some Romania's areas (in monasteries and villages). A great folk habit, full of symbols after all but ...unfortunately, forgotten.

Today, there are on market a large number of decorations for  Easter egg. From just one simple color(red is commonly met ) up to plastic sheets that fits the egg in contact with a hot medium or sticking colored shapes directly on the boiled eggs.
 But, outside the appearance and the strictly commercial side involved in the modern design that, as a technique, has nothing to do with that old and traditional one, the Easter egg (regardless of how Easter is celebrated- traditionally or not) remains a symbol of life, rebirth and new beginnings.
Easter is something to be regarded with great joy and not marking the day by itself.
I want to finish this material with a text from Colossians that speaks much more better than all I done till now and here:

"Let no one...pass judgment on you in matters of food and drink or with regard to a festival or new moon or sabbath. These are shadows of things to come; the reality belongs to Christ." (Col. 2:16-17, NAB)


Updated, today, 16.04.2012
I just put here a link what redirects you to a Facebook page, where a Romanian family, a Moldavian one, keep practice 'inchistritul oualor' (painting eggs) in that old manner. You won't be sorry if you'll see that technique used by this artists family...

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