FOLKLORE FOR EASTER.
The Egg as the Subject of Romance and Legend in Various Countries.
In all ages and in all countries eggs have been the subject of legend and romance. At the Easter season, when the egg is a most palatable, as well as staple, article of food, it is particularly interesting to trace the various superstitions and legends that have been connected with it.
The ancient Finns believed that a mystic bird laid an egg in the lap of Vaimainon, who hatched it in his bosom. He let it fall in the water and it broke. The lower portion of the shell formed the earth, the upper the sky, the liquid white became the sun, the yolk the moon; while the broken bits of eggshell were turned into starts.
In Germany the egg is as much a feature of the gay Eastertide as in our own land, yet the hen, goose or duck is not held responsible for its existence, but to the pretty hares are accredited oviparous qualities, and a nest of sugar eggs presided over by a toy hare is the most favored gift among the young generation. It is the custom in German families on Easter eve to conceal a nest of real and sugar eggs among dried leaves in the garden, allowing happy children to enjoy an egg hunt on Easter morning.
One legendary reason given for the Easter egg is that in the fourth century the church forbade the use of eggs in Lent, but as this did not prevent the hens from laying them they accumulated so rapidly that it was found necessary to boil them and give them to the children for playthings. The little folks delighted to dye them in gay colors; hence the practice that has descended to the children of the present day.
A certain historian gives a very charming account of the marriage of Marguerite, of Austria, with Philibert, the Duke of Savoy. It is called marriage aux oeufs, because it seems it was Easter morning when the future wedded pair first met. The princess was keeping open house at one of her castles on the western slope of Alps, and Philibert, out on a hunting expedition in the neighborhood, came to pay his court to her. All the tenantry were dancing on the green; finally a hundred eggs were scattered in a level place and covered with sand. Lads and lassies, who longed to be lovers, came forward, hand in hand, to tread the measure of the national dance in the midst of the fragile obstructions on every side. If they managed to dance through without cracking one they were regarded as affianced, and not even the parents’ “nay” could then break up the match. Several had already tried and been unsuccessful, when the noble duke besought the beautiful princess to try the dance with him. Full of love, grace and the exhilaration of the moment, they fulfilled the difficult task and were greeted by the most enthusiastic cheers from the beholders. They were married, and on every succeeding Easter, this custom of the district of Bresse became a feature in the Easter rejoicings in the Duke’s realms.
Although we do not have this “Easter egg dancing” into matrimony in this country, it is not improbable that a latent Easter superstition in regard to times and seasons extends even to the marriage ceremony of the present day, if we are to judge from the many weddings that take place during Easter week each year.
The News (Frederick, Maryland) Apr 1, 1899
An Old Easter Bonnet.
I wish the Easter days were now like
Those that once I knew
When Jenny wore the bonnet plain,
with ribbon-bows of blue;
When we walked to Sunday meetin’
o’er the meadows green and sweet,
Where lilies waved in welcome,
with violets at our feet.
It ain’t the fancy fixin’s
I mind so much — the bills.
For birds an’ fluffy feathers –
all the fine new fangled frills;
For I know that fashion changes, –
that it rules the world complete;
But the old-time Easter bonnet
was so simple and so sweet!
Its ribbons matched the color
of the sky overhead.
An’ the lips that smiled beneath it
seemed to mean the words they said!
The lips that smiled so so sweetly –
never knowin’ any art. –
An’ the eyes whose sunny glances
made a light around your heart!
I’ve nothin’ ‘gainst the fashions –
they’ve got to have their day;
But I love the simple bonnets
of the far an’ far away;
An’ thinkin’ how she looked in ‘em –
there, in the long ago.
I sigh, an’ praise the Lord
from whom all blessin’s used to flow!
The News (Frederick, Maryland) Apr 7, 1899
We cannot hurry spring along
By writing dainty sonnets;
Nor will she hasten her approach
To greet beflowered bonnets.
The children of the earth may coax
In accents strong and steady;
Fair spring will grant her presence here
When she gets good and ready.
Nor will the auto painted fresh
And bright for springtime touring,
Or light canoe upon the bank,
Or on the stream a-curing,
Or e’en the signs “Keep off the Grass”
The slightest bit affect her;
She will not hump herself because
We want her and expect her.
We cannot hurry spring at all
By songlets or by sonnets;
She will not hasten her approach
To greet ye mammoth bonnets.
In fact, we dread to have her see
Such millinery gearing
For fear she might reverse her mind
And cancel her appearing.
New Castle News (New Castle, Pennsylvania) Apr 5, 1909