Thursday, April 17, 2014

Easter Eggs in Medieval Times? by Barbara Bettis || SILVERHAWK #Giveaway




FREE BOOK: BARBARA IS GIVING AWAY AN E-COPY OF HER BOOK FROM AMAZON TO ONE COMMENTER.

Here it is, nearly Easter, and you may be getting ready to boil some eggs to color with your children or grandchildren. If so, you’ll be joining in a tradition that goes back hundreds of years.

Surprised?

I was when I first learned about Easter eggs in medieval times. Never would it have occurred to me that more than a thousand years ago eggs were boiled, and even colored, to become a part of what was considered the most meaningful and solemn of Christian holidays.

In fact, eggs have been considered symbols of spring and of rebirth for thousands of years. Ancient civilizations such as the Egyptians and the Romans may have used eggs as symbols of new life and fertility, it is believed.

Even the name “Easter” is thought to have come from Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, according to 8th Century writer, the Venerable Bede. The month coinciding with our April was called “Eostremonat” or Eostre’s month. That name eventually could have been tied to the Christian holiday held in that month. Christian Easter then could have assimilated the earlier symbols.

Yet, how does an egg connect to the death and resurrection of Jesus? It is perceived as the tomb, from which Jesus arose—an empty shell, appearing dead, yet from which comes life. It is a symbol of new life, as mentioned earlier.

Those earliest Easter eggs were called Pace Eggs (or paschal eggs), because the Christian Easter period was first called Pasch, coming from the word Passover.

Lent, which includes forty days of fasting, prohibited consumption of meat and dairy products. Chickens didn’t stop laying during that period, so many eggs were boiled to preserve them. (In reality, I’m not sure how long those eggs lasted—have you ever kept a real hard-boiled egg for several days, especially unrefrigerated? They don’t smell too good. I can’t imagine what they were like after 40 days.)

Nevertheless once Easter arrived, depending upon the country, the eggs were given to guests and/or employed in a game in which the ends were tapped against others’ eggs to see which could last without breaking. In some parts of England, children rolled them down hills, seeing which eggs could reach the bottom with fewest cracks.

Some eggs were painted or dyed, red for the blood of Christ (in some countries); the colors of the local lord, complete with heraldic figures, in others. In some Eastern European countries, they were gilded gold and silver in elaborate patterns.

Less well-off folks could boil them in onion skins, often with string wrapped around to provide a design. Some people used beet juice to impart pink color or spinach water for green. Other means were employed for decorating, as well, such as using wax at succeeding stages of boiling in different colors to produce a multi-colored, marble-looking egg.

Today, eggs are such an ordinary food staple, we don’t consider them symbolic of anything. Yet to medieval folks, they represented new life—in the earth’s cycle of death and rebirth/renewal, in the new life represented by Christ’s death and resurrection. They were an essential part of the Easter celebration.

This year, when my grandchildren and I color eggs, I plan to share this story of the ancient Easter egg.

But I don’t think we’ll try the onion skin method of boiling.

If you’d like a recipe for the old-fashioned Pace Eggs, try this link: www.lavenderandlovage.com

Other sources include: Cosman, Madeleine Pelner. Medieval Holidays and Festivals, 1981.  Pearson Education publishing as Fact Monster;  Jordan, Anne. Christianity. (5 April 2000);   Harbaugh, H. The Guardian, Volume 29 (1878); www.medievalisterrant.wordpress.com;   www.medieval-life.net; and for quick references, Wikipedia. 


From my medieval SILVERHAWK:

He’s everything a proper lady should never want; she’s everything a bastard mercenary can never have.

Sir Giles has come to England to kill his father, who seduced and betrayed his mother. First, however, he’ll seek sweet revenge—kidnap the old lord’s new betrothed. But when Giles uncovers a plot against King Richard, he faces a dilemma: take the lady or track the traitors. What’s a good mercenary to do? Both, of course.

Lady Emelin has had enough. Abandoned in a convent by her brother, she finally has a chance for home and family. Yet now she’s been abducted. Her kidnapper may be the image of her dream knight, but she won’t allow him to spoil this betrothal. Her only solution: escape

Rescuing the intrepid lady—while hunting traitors—is a challenge Giles couldn’t anticipate.  But the greatest challenge to Giles and Emelin is the fire blazing between them. For he’s everything a proper lady should never want, and she’s everything a bastard mercenary can never have.

Short Excerpt:
In the Lady’s Garden, Lady Emelin knelt at a patch of straggly flowers. As Giles advanced, the bright moonlight cast his shoulders as a darker shadow on the ground ahead. By the rigid set of her back, he knew she heard him. He couldn’t explain what had prompted him to veer off course, to seek her out.
Now he stood in the midst of a dead garden, in the heart of Lincolnshire, unsure of his intent.
Emelin sat back on her heels with an exaggerated sigh. “Would you move your shoulders, Sir Knight? They block what meager light I’ve found.” If a tone could cross its arms and tap its toe, hers did. A lightness inside him felt shockingly like a smile.
That’s why he was here. She amused him.
“Where would you like me to move them, my lady?”
“London, I should think.”

Available for purchase:

Author Bio:
Award winning author Barbara Bettis has always loved history and English. As a college freshman, she briefly considered becoming an archeologist until she realized there likely would be bugs and snakes involved. And math.
She now lives in Missouri, where by day she’s a mild-mannered English teacher, and by night she’s an intrepid plotter of tales featuring heroines to die for—and heroes to live for.

Where to find Barbara Bettis on the Internet:

37 comments:

  1. another great book from Barbara :)

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  2. My family often used the onion skin dye method. The shells turn a lovely russet but there is no onion flavor imparted to the egg. Because the skins float and sometimes wrap around the egg, wavy designs can also be found on the eggs without using string. Thanks for the idea of using spinach for green coloring. Didn't know that one!

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    1. Hi Ashantay, This method was completely new to me! Glad to hear that someone does it now and can attest to its working!

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  3. I never realized how far back the tradition of coloring eggs went. Very interesting. Though the thought of eating a boiled egg that has sat around for weeks holds no appeal. I'd rather roll it down a hill. Great post!

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    1. I know! I was completely surprised that it went so far back, the coloring, especially. And as for the eating--my mom would have been horrified. It must have been a fragrant time of year LOL

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  4. I had no idea eggs were dyed for Easter in the Middle Ages! Very interesting post and I love the excerpt from Silverhawk!

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    1. The methods used were so interesting too. I guess I wasn't surprised some just painted them :) But to gild them in silver and gold! thanks for being here.

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  5. Elaborately decorated eggs are a tradition here in Hungary. I once took a class on learning to carve the color off the eggs (typically solid colors, red or blue) that leave these intricate white patterns. They aren't as easy to do as it would seem but beautiful. Thanks for the great info. Didn't know some of this.

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    1. How fascinating, Kathleen, that you took a class to carve colors from the eggs! I know there are some beautiful designs. Decorating exterior (and interior) eggs is such an art.

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  6. Great post! Many pagan festivals were appropriated and overlaid by Christian holidays. The old beliefs still lie just beneath the surface. Thanks for the interesting info.

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    1. Isn't that fascinating? The way the pagan and Christian 'holidays' wove together!

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  7. Loved the post. When I lived in Europe, Easter eggs like the ones in the photo, and with brighter colors were all over the place! Tweeted and shared on FB.

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    1. I wonder how they got those brighter colors? The regular way or one of the old fashioned ones? Thanks for the tweet and share.

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  8. What an interesting post,, and so timely. I didn't know that about the origin of the Easter egg. But years ago my mom found an undiscovered egg that had probably been there a year. I think it was buried inside a couch. Didn't smell, but it was hollow by that time.

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    1. You're lucky it was odor-free :) How surprised you all must have been.

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  9. It's fascinating how many Christian holiday traditions have older roots. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. You're so right, Sharon. Thanks for dropping by.

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  10. Thank you for sharing with us, Barb. I had no idea Easter eggs had such history. I'd heard of Faberge eggs, but not a historical tradition of egg decorating.

    Good luck with your promotion!

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    1. Thanks for hosting me, Melissa. You have such a terrific blog site! A lady my grandmother knew had a collection of Faberge eggs--they always fascinated me--so beautiful.

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  11. I loved reading this post and learning something new! Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Thanks JC. I'm always surprised by the things that pop up when I'm researching something else!

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  12. The story about the Easter Eggs was very interesting. Thank you I enjoyed your interview.

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    1. Louise, Thank you so much! Glad to see you.

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  13. Very interesting post, Barb! I had no idea! Tweeted as well!

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    1. Thanks Lana. I started out with a post on medieval Easter, but there was so much that came up, I settled on this one aspect that so surprised me.

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  14. What I knew about Easter Eggs has been greatly widened! Fascinating to think they've been around for so long! Thanks for the broadening of my horizons.

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    1. Beppie, I was surprised at the creative ways used to color them (outside of painting.)

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  15. I loved reading about Easter eggs! I think that's amazing!

    Okay, so I'm holding my breath, hoping to win your book. If not, then I'll go out and buy it right away!

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    1. LOL Lani. My grandson will be drawing numbers Sunday--with luck ;) Thanks for being here.

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  16. Great info. Can't wait to dye eggs with the kids and my mom this weekend.

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    1. When I was growing up, Beth, kits came with clear wax crayons that we could write or draw designs with before dipping the eggs. Imagine my surprise when I read that wax was sometimes used in the middle ages to layer colors, too. Glad you stopped by.

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  17. I knew there were some very old customs associated with Easter eggs, but I wasn't aware of the extent. Thanks for the information.

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    1. Hi Chuck! I'm constantly surprised at the history of some of our current traditions! Appreciate your being here.

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  18. Melissa, Thanks again for a terrific day! I appreciate your hospitality, as usual. I'll have my grandson draw a number on Sunday (oh, wait, that's Easter. On Saturday, then, for the ebook and you can post the winner's name. And thanks to everyone for making today such a special one.

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