Monday, 6 April 2015

Easter Egg Traditions in Russia

with guest blogger, Suzi Love

Easter was introduced at the end of the 10th Century in Russia and became a time of family
celebrations. Starting as long ago as the Pagan times there was a tradition to paint eggs red, symbolising the sun that ancient people worshipped and to celebrate the awakening of nature after winter. Russians gathered with their family and close friends and such a celebration lasted seven days, the whole Bright Week. Elegant coloured eggs were part of the ritual, but also gifts.

On Easter Sunday, there was a custom of kissing. When people visited at Easter, they took with them painted eggs and greeted each other by saying 'Christ is risen'; the other person replied 'He is risen indeed'. They then kissed each other three times and presented Easter eggs.

In the 18th and 19th centuries at the courts of the Russian Emperors, tsars presented eggs to their retinue. Some were painted with biblical scenes, views of St Petersburg and Moscow, or coats of arms, while special gift souvenir eggs were made of wood, papier-mâché, porcelain, glass, stone and precious metal. If coloured stone was used they were carved and polished, after which they took on a golden or silver-pearl brilliance and appeared to emit light.

Easter eggs were symbolically painted in the colour of the Saviour's blood, which became even more significant at the war fronts where soldiers fought and died and blood was shed. The feast of the Resurrection became associated with the hope of salvation and the redemption of sins through personal courage and self-sacrifice.

Tsar Nicholas's family spent their last Easters at the front and in military hospitals, exchanging the traditional triple kiss with soldiers and giving them gifts. Soldiers were given red eggs with the St George Cross, known as "the soldier's cross" because it was awarded to the lower ranks i.e. privates, seamen and non-commissioned officers. Dowager Empress Maria Fiodorovna commissioned her own personal series of eggs with a red cross and rich decoration and in 1916, 2,000 of these eggs were made and she gifted a thousand of them to wounded soldiers.

Nicholas II's diaries make it possible to recreate episodes from the Easter celebrations at the court of the last Russian emperor. In the entries for 1894 we find Grand Duke Nikolai Alexandrovich celebrating one of his happiest Easter weeks, when the heir to the Russian throne came to Coburg with a brilliant retinue to ask for the hand of Princess Alix of Hesse:

"On Holy Saturday, the eve of Easter, we set off the four of us, Aunt Ella [Grand Duchess Yelizaveta Fiodorovna], Alix, Sandro [Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich]and I to buy all sorts of trifles to hide in the eggs. Although the rain did not stop pouring, we had great fun and laughed...
At 5 o'clock a courier arrived with dear letters from home, with an order and wonderful presents for Alix from Papa and Mama and little Easter eggs. They brought us both a lot of joy. "
 (Via The Heritage Museum, Russia.)

The famous Fabergé jewelry firm began creating Easter eggs with surprises hidden inside. Gold, silver and precious stones were used and these superbly crafted eggs became famous around the world, given as gifts to members of royal families in several countries, or bought by rich collectors because of their unusual and beautiful designs.

Many Fabergé Easter eggs are displayed in museums, libraries, and galleries around the world, including the Heritage Museum in Russia which holds an enormous collection. And if you’d like to own one, Faberge Eggs are occasionally sold at premiere auction houses around the world.

Do you have an Easter tradition you'd like to share? Love to hear from you.

Suzi's book, Easter in Images, is available at:


  1. Thanks for an informative post Suzi. I wouldn't mind one of those Fabergé eggs for my mantelpiece!
    As far as traditions go, we had our annual family egg hunt out in the garden on Easter Sunday. Always a lot of fun for the littlies (and for us biggies, watching the excitement :) )
    Your book looks beautiful, Suzi.

  2. Very intriguing post, Suzi. I've always admired Faberge eggs. The snippet of history about them and the Russian royal family adds sadness to my love of them. It's the kids that get the Easter eggs in my family. Lots of chocolate-coated faces.

  3. Awesome Mom has been to Russia to see many of the fabulous Faberge eggs. She also has a bracelet with 30 mini eggs on weighs a tone but it's pretty!!!

  4. Glad you enjoyed drooling over the eggs as much as I do. They really are gorgeous.

  5. Susan, I'm envious of your Mom and her mini egg bracelet. I'm sure I'd want to buy everything at the Faberge manufacturer.

  6. Great post Suzi. I love Faberge eggs. The amount of time and detail is stunning. Interesting how they came about. Do you know how much one of these eggs is worth approximately?

  7. I've coveted a Faberge egg ever since I first discovered them as a teenager. Of course, I could never, ever afford one. I suspect I am the recipient of some sort of cosmic justice designed to specifically teach individuals to overcome material greed!

  8. Loved the Faberge eggs, Suzi! My husband's father's family were Polish, but they fled Europe before WWI and landed in NZ. So in honour of his heritage I cooked Polish Easter bread one year. It turned out a little bit like a cross between a cake and hot cross buns, and it was yellow.

  9. What a fascinating article, Suzi! They're all so beautiful, and the history around them is so unique.

  10. The winners of Suzi Love's Regency Life e-series from last week are: Luthien, JoannaM and Vonnie. If you ladies would like to email me at asap I will organize your prize. Congratulations!


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