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.
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.