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Red Easter Eggs

Being the most sacred week in the Christian calendar year, the Holy Week is filled with collective traditions that vary from place to place. One of the most common customs is egg dying. Eggs are dyed on Holy Thursday, which is also called Red Thursday. The shell of the egg symbolizes the hermetically closed tomb of Christ, its cracking symbolizes His resurrection and exit from the tomb, while the red color represents the blood of Christ shed on the Holy Cross.

There are a couple of stories about why we dye eggs red. According to one story, Virgin Mary took a basket of eggs and offered them to her Son’s guards, begging them not to torture him.

When her tears fell on the eggs, they turned red. Another story is related to Mary Magdalene. When the Roman emperor was informed about Jesus’ Resurrection, he considered the news as impossible as “red eggs”. Mary Magdalene then dyed some eggs red and offered them to him to confirm the fact. According to a different version of the same story, Mary Magdalene went to Tiberius Caesar to announce Christ’s Resurrection. Tiberius Caesar told Mary Magdalene that he would believe her only if the eggs in the basket next to him turned red, which happened instantly.

easter egg cyprus
Cyprus Easter

With the red eggs we play ‘tsougkrisma”. On Saturday night after the midnight mass, family members gather at home, each picking a red egg. Family members compete in pairs. Everyone tries to choose the egg which looks to be either very pointy or have a hard shell.  The challenger holds up his egg and his contestant taps it with his egg saying “Christos Anesti” (Christ has risen). The one whose egg didn’t crack from the collision is the winner goes on to challenge the next family member.  What’s the prize? Laughs and family memories, and, of course, good luck!

Though there are plenty of commercial egg dyes, locals often use natural plant dyes found in nature, such as Rizari. Rizari is a humble bush with red roots that thrives in certain rural areas and is sold on Easter. Do you want to give it a try? Crash the roots into a pulp and put it in a pot of cold water. Add the eggs (which should be at room temperature), a little salt and vinegar. Bring the water to a boil over low heat to keep the eggs from cracking. Once the eggs are hardboiled and colored to the desired shade, take them out and let them dry and cool. Then polish them with a cotton pad dipped in a little bit olive oil to make them shine.

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