Painted eggs in Lithuanian tradition
The custom of blessing food and eggs, belonging to the Easter tradition, has always been its main component. They were eaten, given as gifts, and used for magical treatments to ensure a good harvest and the success in husbandry as well as in games. In Lithuania, apart from the Easter period, a common custom was making Easter eggs on St. George’s Day (April 23), the traditionally adopted date of the first cattle grazing in spring. The eggs were then brought to church and placed at the altar as well as in the chapels, with his image as an offering. At the beginning of the twentieth century, there was also a common tradition of housewives giving several unpainted eggs to farmers grazing their cattle for the first time. Similarly, in the period preceding Green Week, shepherds took raw eggs to a pasture, made scrambled eggs from them and ate them together, while making Easter eggs for the main shepherd from some of the eggs.
The games with Easter eggs in Lithuania — also commonly found in other areas — were described extensively in 1913 by Wandalin Szukiewicz (1852–1919), an eminent researcher of the history of the Vilnius Region:
Strictly connected to the Easter celebrations, there is a custom of “eggs kaczanie” (rolling eggs) among the local people. (…) Usually the village youth, and sometimes older people as well, gather together, set up a wooden trough, open at both ends and slightly inclined, on a freshly swept, even square and roll boiled and dyed eggs down the trough, sticking tightly to the queue. Whichever egg hits the other one on the run, makes its owner the winner who takes the bumped egg. They sometimes play the so-called “bank”. During the game, every participant of the game puts their egg in the line with the others at some distance from the mouth of the trough (...), and then sequentially rolls the eggs down the trough. If someone hits whichever egg is standing in the line with their egg, they collect all the eggs on the square; if they do not hit any, they pay every participant one egg. (…) They also play “fights” with the eggs; they check the strength of the eggs by softly striking their teeth with them first. Whose egg — checked this fashion — breaks more eggs, wins.
Although we can read in this material from 1913, concerning the tradition of decorating eggs in Lithuania that — “Easter eggs vanished in this area completely” — in Lithuanian publications, however, we find photographs of Easter eggs decorated with such techniques in the 1930su and in the archival collection of our museum, there are drawings of similar Easter eggs from the areas of Kaunas and Mariampol from the 1920s.
Elaborated by Grażyna Pyla (The Seweryn Udziela Ethnographic Museum in Kraków), © all rights reserved
See also Easter egg from Kaunas.