Russian Easter: the funny egg tradition

The Orthodox Easter "egg tradition" obviously has its roots in religion, but for me it was always a cultural celebration.


My Deda's kulich recipe, now in my mum's recipe book

My Babushka tells me: "Three symbolic foods were important: kulichi symbolises the mount Golgotha where Christ was crucified; paskha symbolises the cave where Christ was buried; and egg, the symbol of life and resurrection. The most important colour was red, the colour of blood that Christ spilled". We still have all three foods at Easter.


Before the meal starts, you compete in an egg-tapping competition, where you tap your hard-boiled, decorated egg against another's. (Apparently when the egg is cracked it symbolises the resurrection - but I didn't know that until I googled it just now...). If your eggshell remains uncracked, you move onto the next person. Whoever's egg is left unbroken is the winner.


When I asked my mum what her narrative around this tradition was she replied: "It’s just one of those funny traditions. Nathalie does it, everyone does it. Don’t know why."


Baba Olia said to me, "the winner was very very happy, and I think that was the idea to create a very happy atmosphere of a holiday". Yep, definitely agree, Baba Olia. As a kid I felt a level of shame that the main egg at our easter was hard-boiled and not chocolate - the classic diasporic kid who just wants to "fit in". But at the same time, I always felt an underlying sense of happiness too - it signified a special day, a moment of excitement and togetherness, playing with our food, shouting and laughing across the table. And the egg dying itself was always this precious, special practice; you have to be careful not to break the egg as you're dying it or get red food dye all over your clothes (very hard as kids!). So it's a special day; a special practice that brings me back to family and culture which doesn't always feel that easy in these busy lives we lead, but jeez... It's good to do.





 

Some references:

https://theculturetrip.com/europe/russia/articles/10-things-you-should-know-about-celebrating-easter-in-russia/

https://www.qantas.com/travelinsider/en/trending/easter-traditions-from-around-the-world.html#:~:text=Before%20the%20meal%2C%20Greeks%20compete,(%E2%80%9CIndeed%20he%20has!)

https://www.hse.ru/recommends/news/266809579.html#:~:text=Egg%20Fights&text=In%20this%20tradition%2C%20before%20you,the%20rounds%20is%20the%20winner.