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Spring's Here! Decorate the Easter Tree!

Spring is here! I still have some dirty snow grumping in the shady corners of my garden, but can see daffodils sprouting, which has lead me to poke about looking for a good dead tree to use to make an Easter Tree with.




This year Easter Sunday is April 4th, but don’t think of your Easter Tree as a one day thing. It’s especially not a religious thing (no mention of eggs or rabbits in the Christian Bible!), so it’s a bit of happiness that anyone of any faith can set up to celebrate the changing of the seasons.


So where did the tradition of decorating eggs start? The craft of decorating eggshells is very old, going back into prehistory with some decorated African ostrich eggs found that are 60,000 years old. In the early Egypt and the early cultures of around the Mediterranean, eggs were associated with death and rebirth. This may have influenced early Christian and Islamic cultures in those areas.


The tradition in Germany to decorate the branches of trees with eggs goes back centuries and its origins have been lost. Known as an Osterbaum (literally, Easter Tree) or Ostereierbaum (again, literally, Easter Egg Tree), the tradition of decorating, hiding and hanging Easter Eggs was introduced to Britain by Queen Victoria, who also brought in the Christmas tree from Germany.


Ostereierbaum can be kept inside the home by taking a few young branches (usually pussy willows, magnolia, or cherry blossoms) and placing them in a vase of water, or they can be outside. German families also decorate live trees and bushes in their gardens with egg ornaments. I go out and find a dead branches or small tree with lots of sturdy twigs to hang ornaments on, spray paint them, and then I stick it in a bucket filled with plaster. Voila! Instant Easter Tree, suitable for decorating.


When she was a child, Queen Victoria enjoyed egg hunts at Kensington Palace. These were put on by her mother, the German-born Duchess of Kent. On Sunday 7 April 1833, the 14-year-old Princess Victoria wrote in her diary: ‘Mama did some pretty painted & ornamented eggs, & we looked for them’.


An article about this Easter tradition by Historic England says “Victoria and Albert continued this German tradition, hiding eggs for their own children to find on Maundy Thursday. Albert was responsible for hiding the eggs, concealing them in ‘little moss baskets’ and hiding them around the palace. Victoria made numerous references to these egg hunts in her journals, including in 1869 when she wrote: ‘After breakfast, the children, as usual on this day looked for Easter eggs.’”


Though the egg hunt had its origins in central Europe, Britain has its own egg-related Easter traditions. In the north of England and in Scotland the custom of decorating eggs, and giving them as presents, or using them to decorate the home goes back many centuries. Known as ‘pace-egging’ from the Latin for Easter, pascha, it is first recorded in early-eighteenth century Lancashire, and by the early 19th century was popular across large parts of the country.


Egg rolling was also an Easter tradition in the north of Britain, particularly in Cumbria, where children came together from the 1790s to roll decorated eggs down grassy hills. In the Edwardian period large crowds gathered each year at traditional egg rolling sites like the castle moat at Penrith, Avenham Park in Preston and Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh.


In the North of England some Easter Eggs are called pace-eggs or paste-eggs, from a dialectal form of Middle English pasche. They were usually eaten after an egg-jarping (egg tapping) competition. Egg-jarping is a traditional game played where hard boiled pace eggs are distributed and each player hits the other player's egg with their own. This is known as "egg tapping", "egg dumping", or "egg jarping". The winner is the holder of the last intact egg. The annual egg jarping world championship is held every year over Easter in Cumbria.


Another Easter game is the Egg Dance. This is a traditional Easter game in which eggs are laid on the ground or floor and the goal is to dance among them without damaging any eggs which originated in Germany. In the UK the dance is called the hop-egg. I wouldn’t do that with glass eggs!


While the eggs and decorations we sell at The Rum Lot aren’t edible (and we tell you that ALL THE TIME..don’t eat the ornaments!), that does mean we don’t have a soft spot for the occasional chocolate egg. In 1873 J.S. Fry & Sons of England introduced the first chocolate Easter egg in Britain. Manufacturing their first Easter egg in 1875, Cadbury created the modern chocolate Easter egg after developing a pure cocoa butter that could be moulded into smooth shapes.


In the medieval period eating eggs was forbidden during Lent, the 40 day period before Easter. On Easter Sunday the fast ended with feasting and merriment, and eggs were considered an important part of these celebrations. This was especially true for poorer people who couldn’t afford meat. Eggs were also given to the church as Good Friday offerings, and villagers often gave eggs as gifts to the lord of the manor at Easter. Royals got involved with this tradition too – in 1290 Edward I purchased 450 eggs to be decorated with colours or gold leaf and then distributed to his household.


This spring, think about setting up your own Easter Tree. Decorate it with your own creations (and a few of our Rum Lot baubles!) and start your own tradition. It’s easy to do. It’s sustainable. An Easter Tree is made of bare branches and will last generations and when you don’t want it any more, toss it on the compost heap. But most of all a beautifully decorated Easter Tree will make your heart sing. Find some ideas at https://www.rumlot.com/easter








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