Easter: The Origins and Symbolism of the Easter Egg, Bells, Colour Red etc. (1881) / Origins of the Easter egg


In France the people busied themselves the week before Easter in preparing boiled eggs, which they stained a “red” or violet” colour. These were sold in the streets, and afforded great amusement to the children, who first played with them and afterwards ate them.

In Egypt the cattle and trees were painted “red” at Easter, from a belief the people retained of the world having been on fire at that period.

The ” egg” placed upon the Paschal table of the Jews denoted the duration of the human race, and of generation succeeding generation. In all the mysterious ceremonies known as Apocalyptic the ” egg” was used.

The Persians consider the “egg” as a symbol of the world, and present “eggs ” each New Year.

It is supposed that Christians, whose Easter commenced in 1563, egg symbol, Easter, Old Fashioned Holidaysborrowed the custom of presenting their children with “eggs” from the Persians, and their idea of colouring them from the Jews and Egyptians.

In Bonneval, during the first few days of the week preceding Easter Sunday, the clerks of the different parishes, the beadles, the artisans, those employed in making agricultural implements, or the making or mending of the harness for horses, went from house to house to ask for their “Easter eggs.” The children in several places made a feast, and on Easter Sunday ate “red ” or “yellow ” eggs at breakfast.

It was a very general custom in all parts of France for the smiths, wheelwrights, mechanics of all kinds, ferrymen, shepherds, millers, gardeners, &c., to go the round of their customers and ask for their “Easter eggs,” which were always in readiness for them. The children also called at all goods houses, and received “red ” eggs. They called this begging “Les roulies,” or going the rounds.

At Poitiers, on Easter Monday, some pious people proposed to re-establish an ancient custom suspended by the Revolution, and which took place first on the occasion of the ” Miracle of the Keys,” in the year 1202. This custom was at first observed every year, and subsequently every two years, and consisted in the wives of the mayor and the other members of the corporation attending vespers, and afterwards presenting the statue of the Virgin with flowers and a rich new mantle, which they placed around her in the presence of the cure of Notre Dame and all his clergv, who received the cortege at the church door. The corporation consisted of one hundred members— namely, the mayor, twenty-four aldermen, and feventy-fivc citizens—and in the procession each man walked on the right side of his wife. The day was finished by a grand ball and supper given by the mayor.

In the ancient Druidical barrow of La Motte du Pongard, a short distance from Dieppe, in the midst of a plain covered with corn, a fete was ‘held on Easter Monday, which was abolished at the time of the revolution.

Crowds of men, women, and children from all the surrounding villages congregated round the barrow, where one hundred eggs were placed in a basket at the base of the eminence.

All the assembly then formed a circle round the barrow, while one man of their number carried the eggs, one by one, and placed them on the top of the eminence; then he again returned with them, replacing them, one by one, in the basket at the foot of the mound. While this performance was going forward another man of the company was running a distance of a mile and a-quarter to the village of Bacqueville, and if he returned before the hundredth egg was replaced in the basket he gained a prize of a hogshead of cider, with” which he afterwards made merry with his friends.

The whole company after this performance (which was called “run the eggs”) was over, made merry, rejoicing and amusing themselves in different ways. They danced in a ring around Druidic beliefsthe barrow to represent a chain without ends, and indulged in various other symbolical customs.

The figuring of the egg in this instance was to commemorate the serpent-egg consecrated by the Druids. It was an emblem of the year also.

In Toulouse the people were very superstitious, and fasted rigorously. The town was almost silent from Good Friday morning. The people imagined all the bells had gone to St. Peter’s, as no bell was heard anywhere.

In the chapel belonging to the Convent of “Les Freres ” there was a kind of stage erected, the distance representing Mount Calvary, with the cross upon it. On an altar in the foreground was the figure of a lamb asleep; this was guarded on either side by two figures of  Ionian soldiers, who had also fallen asleep; and before this rose and fell the spray of a beautiful fountain, softening and soothing by its refreshing trickling sound the lookers-on at the picture represented.

At the time our Lord is supposed to have risen the bells (returned again from St. Peter’s) began to ring and cannons were fired. Looking again on the altar the lamb is found to have gone, and the sleeping soldiers have started to their feet with surprise and terror depicted on their countenances; whilo away in the distance is seen the figure of the Saviour ascending the Mount.

The moment the bells begin ringing all the people are abroad meeting each other and singing a sort of rhyme moaning “Hallelujah,” and whoever manages to sing the rhyme first receives an omelet from the other on the morrow.

High mass is celebrated in all the churches, after which the priests walk in procession under a rich canopy, blessing all who choose to come. This over, the time is given up to feasting and rejoicing. .

Source: Tit-bits from all the most interesting books, periodicals and newspapers in the world

George Newnes, 1881

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