Brief History of Eggs
Celebrated since the dawn of time, the egg is a symbol of fertility, creation and new life. Though long considered a springtime food, it has now become an essential ingredient in all of our culinary traditions.
The ancient Persian and Celtic cultures celebrated the spring equinox with the gift of red-dyed eggs. The eggs were shared at a meal, and afterwards, the shells were carefully crushed, a ritual to drive away winter.
The ban on eating eggs during the 46 days of Lent, established in the 9th century, is what made the egg so popular at Easter. The eggs were collected and saved and, once the fasting was over, were distributed to the servants and children, who generally enjoyed them in a huge Easter omelette.
As the practice became more refined, the nobility got into the act, using the last days of winter to decorate eggs to give to their beloved, their master or the King. By the 16th century, these springtime eggs were all the rage at the court of France, with some being decorated by a few of the greatest artists of the day.
However, the popularity of the Easter egg reached untold heights at the court of the Czar of Russia. By the end of the 19th century, the court jeweller, Carl Fabergé, was making fabulous eggs of gold, crystal and porcelain. Today, hand-decorated eggs are exchanged as springtime gifts in many cultures and play a very important role in religious ceremonies on Easter morning. Some families carefully save their egg collection, passing them on from generation to generation.
Whether straight out of ancient tradition, brought from Rome on the sound of church bells, or mysteriously laid by the Easter Bunny, the decorated egg, be it cooked or raw, full or hollow, made of wood, clay or silver, or of sugar or chocolate, will no doubt remain an undeniable token of friendship and love.
Who will get your egg this year?
A Few Customs...
Easter egg remedies
Eggs laid on Good Friday and eaten on Easter Sunday are said to protect against fever the whole year round! Thrown into the heart of a fire, they are thought to have the power to extinguish the blaze. Buried in the garden or on the edge of a field, they guard against lightning and hail, and protect beehives.
Eggs in maple syrup
A forbidden treat during Lent, eggs in maple syrup are still part of the Easter tradition in many areas of Quebec. What’s more, in days gone by, maple syrup, or better yet, maple sugar was served in a decorated eggshell.
An old French custom, the egg-rolling contest, consisted of rolling raw eggs — marked to identify the owner — down a gentle slope. The egg that survives the bumpy terrain and attacks by competing eggs is declared the "victory egg." It symbolizes the rock that rolled away from the mouth of the tomb when Christ rose from the dead.
A German custom
Another custom, which originated in Germany, is to hang red eggs in evergreen trees, a powerful ancient symbol of rebirth and renewal.
"Eggs-traordinary" coats of arms
While France’s lords and ladies painted their coats of arms on the eggs they gave at Easter, the peasants and the middle class were content to dip freshly laid eggs in coloured wax, which preserved the egg in addition to being ornamental.
Egg wars were popular throughout Medieval Europe at Easter. The most famous, which occurred around 975, took place between the bishop and dean of Chester, England and the cathedral choir. The fight broke out in the middle of Easter services and lasted a good hour, everyone having made sure to bring plenty of "ammunition"! Records state that weeks later, one could still hear the eggshells under one’s sandals...
The chicken or the egg?
Have you solved the riddle? Which came first: the chicken or the egg? In fact, it seems that the first recorded egg layers were ducks and geese in China more than 6,000 years ago. The laying hen did not appear until 2,000 years later in India, and was only introduced to the western world in the 5th century. Legend has it, though, that the egg came first and was laid by…the Easter bunny!
Eggs offer egg-ceptional nutrition
Eggs are unique in that they contain nearly every nutrient known to be essential to humans. The reason for this is that nature designed it as a total life support system for a developing chick. Add to this the fact that eggs are economical and you have a near-perfect food!