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Wednesday, 13 September 2017 20:14

Why Do We Decorate Eggs?

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Decorating eggs for crafts and religious holidays is prominent in American culture, but have you ever wondered why we decorate eggs? While the precise date of the first decorated egg is not known, historians have uncovered decorated eggs from as early as the middle stone age![1] Since eggs symbolize life, renewal, and rebirth, many cultures around the world continue to decorate eggs for religious ceremonies.[2]

While decorating eggs is a common form of decorative arts, how people decorate eggs varies. Before you decorate the egg, there are three options: drain the egg, cook the egg, or decorate as it is. Many people choose to drain or cook the egg because this process increases the life-expectancy of the egg. If the egg was not drained or cooked, weak parts of the shell could crack over time and cause the interior liquid to seep through the cracks.

Once the egg has been prepared, or not, the decorator can use dyes, plants, wax, and carving tools to create their design. To this day, people are still exploring new ways to decorate their eggs.

 Egg

At HSMC, we have a beautiful collection of decorated eggs. However, one in particular stood out to our volunteers during our inventory project. This beautiful decorated egg dates back to 1832. Upon removal from the box, we encountered a powerful smell. Once we examined the egg, we realized it had never been drained! Miraculously, the liquid interior never leaked through the shell. Due to its age, we determined that anything left on the inside of the egg has likely turned to powder.

Egg 1832   

The artwork on the egg is in amazing condition. We can clearly see the designs of people, flowers, and a clock tower. One mystery that remains is: Who created this decorated egg? The initials “E.N.” are on the egg, but we have not been able to uncover this person’s name. Based on the clothing styles of the people depicted on the egg, it is possible the decorator was a middle or upper class woman who lived in Montgomery County.

Egg, Woman


[1] Stephanie Hall, The Ancient Art of Decorating Eggs, April 6, 2017, https://blogs.loc.gov/folklife/2017/04/decorating-eggs/

[2] Stephanie Hall, The Ancient Art of Decorating Eggs, April 6, 2017, https://blogs.loc.gov/folklife/2017/04/decorating-eggs/

Read 119 times Last modified on Wednesday, 13 September 2017 20:47

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