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The incredible, edible tradition

April 03, 2001

The incredible, edible tradition



The symbol of the egg and, of course, the chicken are at the heart of Easter traditions, says Linda Arnaud in her new book, "The Artful Chicken" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $29.95). However, the ornamental and decorated Easter eggs enjoyed by Christians each year are the legacy of a variety of cultural traditions.

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In ancient China, Greece and Rome, eggs were offered as gifts celebrating spring or love. In the British Isles, colored eggs honored pagan deities. Decorated eggs helped mark springtime and, later, Easter in central Europe.

The most familiar of these, Arnaud writes, are probably the richly decorated traditional Ukrainian and Russian Easter eggs, available as two types. "Krashanky," hard-boiled eggs dyed a solid color, are often blessed and eaten as part of ritual. Sharing krashanky with family expresses unity and hope for a happy year ahead. "Pysanky," from the word "to write," are raw eggs dyed and decorated in fine detail. Today, design motifs combine Christian symbols and simple geometric patterns from pagan times, when eggs - their yolks representing the sun - were used in sun worship ceremonies.

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Other European traditions expressing the more secular side of Easter were quickly adopted in America as well, Arnaud writes. The Easter bunny, the egg hunt and the egg-rolling contest on the White House lawn are all offspring of older traditions. And the hen, rooster and chick are featured in many decorative objects this time of year.

Witness the basket brimming with Easter treats, including chocolate, sugar, candy-coated or fancy-wrapped confectionary eggs, not to mention the egg-shaped jelly bean. In the form of sweets, toys or baby booties, the baby chick theme always proves irresistible, Arnaud says.

- The Associated Press

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