Photos by Šarūnė Kajietė from a book “Savas margutis”
Easter is a sacred holiday here in Lithuania due to strong and old traditions that remains the same from our ancestors. It's a time when whole family, from the very little ones to seniors, meets around the big table to eat Easter Sunday Feast and play Easter games. Beforehand families spend their evening hand-painting Easter eggs (margučiai). Hand-painting method requires to use the tips of needles or other sharp objects to paint detailed patterns with hot melted wax. Then, after the wax cools and hardens, the eggs are dipped into natural colorful dye. After the dye dries, the wax is cleaned to reveal the pattern. It requires immense patience and artistry, but the result is extremely beautiful.
Traditional Easter games are very popular to play with your family to have a fun time. Egg cracking is happening while everybody are sitting around the table when two people pick an egg of their liking. One person is a holder, the other is a tapper, and they tap one egg to another. The one whose eggshell remains intact, wins. This activity is fun for both young and elderly to choose the winner with the strongest egg of all.
Egg rolling is another game mostly for younger ones to stay entertained. Players lift one end of a rounded tray made from bark or wood at an angle from the ground. They roll an egg down the tray trying to tap another player‘s egg in turns. If they succeed, they claim both eggs and the player with the most eggs at the end wins.
For this special occasion, we invited Eglė Bazaraitė (@bazaraite) an architect and an enthusiast of traditional Easter Egg painting to talk a little bit about her path discovering this activity and what it means to her. So let's begin!
Egle, how would you introduce yourself?
I am a (rese)architect trained in Lithuania and Portugal, using history as a tool to understand and act towards built, mental and imagined spaces. My Linkedin profile would also let you know that I work in a university, where I teach and serve as a vice-dean at the Faculty of Architecture.
Why Easter Egg painting? How did you discover this uncommon field? How did you learn the technique?
I don’t think I discovered it – egg painting was waiting for me when I was born. My mother learned it from her mother, and my grandmother probably from someone else in her family. I know that it was common to paint Easter eggs in the area where my mother grew up – a region of scattered solitary farmhouses with meadows, fields and forests among them.
It always felt extremely natural to paint eggs for Easter, a certain common sense, and it is what made this time of the year special. Together with longer evenings and brighter spring light, with blues of the melting beeswax filling kitchen with smoke and all the family members there – painting one egg after another. This was my egg painting school that I have been attending since I can remember myself.
What’s the meaning behind Easter egg painting?
My mother tells that up until early 80s, when she was in her mid-30s, she didn’t consider egg painting as any kind of art. It was simply a part of the Easter ritual. A reason for painting was purely magical – a painted egg was expected to protect home from mishaps, it would also set a spell upon chicken for laying more eggs. It was a beautiful gift with an ornament bringing a specific message of spring greetings, happiness in family, blooming of life. Winning an egg in the Easter egg games was a tasty treat. All in all, Easter eggs are not made beautiful to be eaten – they should be given as gifts and/or kept at home for the whole year.
Do you know if this cultural heritage is present around the world?
Painted Easter eggs are common in the Eastern Europe. Lithuanian region is the Northernmost for the use of ornaments, while Latvians only dye them in one or another color. And then there are ornamental Easter egg traditions down to the South, as far as Balkans and Ukraine.
What Easter egg painting means to you?
Painting eggs before Easter means family reunion, and it’s such a pity that this year for the second time because of the pandemics, it will be of a very reduced scale. Usually my nephews and nieces visit my parents and spend evenings with them painting eggs, chatting and enjoying pleasures of creating together. Every successful step in egg painting is greeted with a burst of joy. This tradition brings a feeling of union with the closest family members. And of course, for the same reason, I am missing dearly painting eggs with friends.
We hope you have found out something new and interesting about Lithuanian traditional Easter egg painting and the way we celebrate this holiday. We wish you will to have an amazing time on Easter Sunday, whether you celebrate it or not, with traditions from your own home country. And even though it's harder to meet all the loved ones this time of global pandemic, we believe you will still have a great time celebrating one of the most beautiful Spring holidays!