One of the most important traditions in Romania at Easter time, is decorating boiled eggs in their shells. Romanian Easter eggs are famous all over the world because of their colourful and intricate design, created on the delicate shell. It is a long lasting tradition that has its roots in religion, and every year, in every household, families make red Easter eggs.
In this article I will tell you about the tradition of making Romanian Easter eggs, and how you can do them as well. We will talk about the traditional painted eggs from Bucovina, as well as how to make the simpler version, to welcome Easter in your home.
Romanian Easter Eggs and Their Significance
There are a few religious stories around Romania, on why we are making red eggs for Easter. The one I grew up with said that when Jesus was on the cross, Mary came with a basket of eggs and placed it at his feet. Whilst she was crying, his blood dripped onto them turning them red. When Jesus saw that the eggs were red, he said to the people around him to continue making the red eggs, as a way of remembering his crucifixion. This story is also the basis of the reason why the eggs are painted on the Big Thursday, and not any other day of the week.
On Easter Sunday around the dinner table, people take the red eggs and tap the top of one on the top of another one, saying “Hristos a Inviat” (“Christ has risen from the dead”). The person holding the other egg says “Adevarat a Inviat (It’s the truth that he has risen from the dead”)”. The breaking of the egg, as one of them will break, is again a religious symbol of the resurrection of Jesus, representing the tomb opening.
Another tradition says to keep a red egg in water, alongside a coin overnight. On Easter Sunday, when you wake up, you should wash your face with that water. This symbolises maintaining your beauty and youth all year round.
The Tradition of Painting Eggs in Romania
In Romania, the tradition of painting eggs goes way beyond painting them red. The painted Easter Eggs in Romania are a proper work of art, especially around the monasteries in Bucovina, where the most intricate ones come from. The process of decorating eggs is long and requires a lot of attention, patience and delicate hands.
The egg is emptied from its contents through a little hole at the bottom, and the shell is decorated using different motifs and colours. The more complicated the designs, the more precious the eggs are. To decorate an egg, the artist has to build layers and layers of beeswax that create traditional motifs with meaning. Each colour has to be covered with wax in a particular way, from the lightest to the darkest, as each layer or beeswax reveals a different pattern. The last layer is black, which is the background of the egg. Once the egg has been decorated, it is placed near a source of heat to melt all the wax and reveal its design.
The women who decorate the eggs are doing it as a job. They make between 500-700 eggs each year.
You can usually find these gorgeous eggs to buy in the special Easter fairs organised before the big holiday. One of the most popular places in Bucharest that organises such a fair each year is “Muzeul Taranului Roman” – The Romanian Peasant Museum.
How to Make Romanian Easter Eggs at Home
Making Romanian Easter eggs at home is a very easy process, and you can buy the dye directly from the shop. It is non toxic and very easy to use, delivering perfect results every time.
In the countryside, some women are still using the natural way of dying eggs, using red onion leaves and a stocking to create patterns on the eggs. When boiled for an hour or so, the red onion peel releases its colour, dying the eggs in a natural way. To create patterns, you would usually place a leaf on the egg, and then wrap it inside a stocking. Firstly you have to remove the onion peels, and leave only the coloured liquid in the pot. Then, add the eggs and boil for 10 more minutes, and at the end, add a few tablespoons of vinegar, to fix the colour.
Every year I use the Easter egg dye which I buy from the store. You can find it in any Eastern European shop. Because I only make a small quantity of eggs, I always have plenty of packets at home, all different colours and from different Eastern European countries, as I always buy a pack before Easter if I’m travelling, just in case. The most common colours are red, yellow, green, blue, and sometimes orange.
This year I only made red eggs, using dye from Romania. The process is very easy. First, you have to boil the eggs for 10 minutes, and then submerge them in ice cold water. To prepare the dying liquid, simply add 700ml of boiling water in a bowl, alongside the liquid or powder colour, and 5 tablespoons of 9% acidity vinegar. I used distilled malt vinegar which is only 4 degrees, so I doubled the quantity. Transfer the eggs from the ice cold water to the bowl with the colour, and let them soak for 4 minutes. Make sure they are completely under the water, so that they get an uniform colour.
After 4 minutes, make sure they have are fully coloured, and then take them out to dry. I put them back into the egg carton, as it absorbs the extra liquid very well. If you have stickers, you can decorate the eggs now as well. Also, some people prefer to rub them with oil or pork fat for a nice shine – I don’t, because I don’t like the feel of grease on my hands.
Romanian Easter Eggs
- 10 eggs
- 1 pack red egg dye
- 5 tbsp vinegar 9% acidity
- Wash the eggs with dish soap and let them dry.
- Put a pot of water to boil. When the water starts boiling, add the eggs and boil them for 10 minutes.
- Take the eggs out and put them in an ice bath. This step is necessary so that the eggs peel easily.
- Fill another bowl with 700ml of boiling water. Add the dye in the pack, and 5 tablespoons of vinegar. If you are using vinegar with less acidity, add more tablespoons.
- Submerge the eggs in the liquid, and make sure that there is no spot at the surface. Let them sit in the liquid for 2-4 minutes until they get a beautiful shade of red.
- Take the eggs out and let them dry inside the cardboard they came in, or on a kitchen towel.
Notes and Tips:
- Don’t skip the vinegar, as this is the agent that fixes the colour to the egg. I had distilled malt vinegar, which has an acidity of 4%, so I just doubled the quantity.
- You will find the ready made dye at any Romanian, Turkish, Polish, or Eastern European shop starting 2 weeks before Easter. The lady at the Romanian shop near me is very nice and always tells me when new things are coming in stock, when I ask.
- It’s best to use white eggs, if you can find any. The colour is much more vibrant on them than on brown eggs.
For more Romanian Easter recipes check out the following: