said that Jesus will rise on the third day. The host didn’t agree:
chicken on the table rises and the eggs become red, he will also
rise!" That very moment
eggs changed their colour and the chicken became alive. The practice
of colouring eggs in our lands is borrowed from the Slavs in the
second half of the 5th and the beginning of the 6th century. In
Western Bulgaria the coloured eggs are called “perashki”. Some
scholars think that the name “perashka” is a derivative of the Old
Slavic word per meaning ‘beat, strike, hail, thunder’ and originated
from the still older word "kver" meaning ‘oak-tree’, which gave rise
to the name Perun – the name of the god of thunder. What is more, in
the ancient lands of the Bulgarians Thursdays were celebrated as days
protecting against thunder and hail. Because Thursday was the day of
Perun. The name Perundan (‘Perun’s day’) has the meaning of "Thursday"
in the language of Polab Slavs. This explains the long-standing
tradition to dye the eggs on Thursday. The woman of the house dyes the
eggs and the first two are always red. They are the freshest, taken
out of the laying-place early in the morning. They have healing
properties. The first one is placed by the icon and on the next year
it is buried in the first furrow in the field. With the second egg the
woman rubs the face of every child for health and then she hides it to
heal people and animals.
In a manuscript from the 10th century, kept in the “Saint Anastasius”
monastery near Thessalonica, it is said: “The Christian ritual of
giving coloured eggs exists since the time of the apostles and
originates from Saint Mary of Magdalene. She, according to legend, on
coming to Rome, presented herself to the Emperor Tiberius, gave him a
red egg and said: “Christ has risen!” In this way she declared her
faith. And the Christians began imitating her. Another legend tells
that after Christ’s death seven Jews got together for a feast. On the
table there was roast chicken and hard-boiled eggs.
In old times
the dying of Easter eggs was practiced primarily in the villages. It
was not typical of the towns. Exceptions were the engravings of the
monks from the larger Bulgarian monasteries. Otherwise the dying and
painting of the eggs was the responsibility of young
old women alike and was done also on Saturday, but secretly so that no
evil eye spoils the eggs. The most widely used dye in the past was the
red one, prepared from boiled plants. In the Rhodope Mountains they
also used infusion of the dried insect “koshenil” or leaves of
marjoram picked at Midsummer Day. They used a special cutter, “pen”
with wax and bone-glue. The “pen” is made from a small hollow tube of
dry elder or cane with a nib made from a rolled and sharpened silver
coin. The ornaments on the dyed Easter eggs include plant motifs,
interwoven with solar swastikas, zoomorphic drawings of butterflies,
fish, chickens, stylized forms of snakes and spiders, as well as
geometrical and schematic anthropomorphic images. Naturally, the woman
who decorates the eggs never forgets to encode the orthographic
elements of the folk greeting "Christ has risen”.
Thursday is the day when all women are supposed to colour bright eggs
for Easter family gathering. Eggs as symbols of creation and new life
have been exchanged for hundreds of years.
The concept of the red egg in the Christian traditional
customs has been connected to a legend. Mary Magdalene, whom Jesus had
cured from all the evil spirits within her, was the first one to see
Jesus risen from the dead and she went around the world to spread the
happy news. She reached Rome and Emperor Tiberius's palace. According
to the tradition, everyone visiting him was supposed to carry some
sort of a gift to the Emperor. The rich people were carrying expensive
gifts while the poor ones - whatever they could afford.
Mary Magdalene took an egg to Tiberius's palace and
handed it to the Emperor with the following greeting: "Christ has
risen from the dead!" The Emperor could not believe what he heard and
responded: "How could anyone ever rise from the dead! It is as
impossible as that white egg to turn red right now..." While Tiberius
was talking, the egg in Mary Magdalene's hands started changing its
colour until it finally became bright red. The Easter greeting ever
since has remained "Christ has risen from the dead" and Christians all
over the world colour eggs in red (as well as various other colours)
for Easter to celebrate their belief in the Resurrection.
In the Christian calendar that day is known as Maundy
Thursday, Sheer Thursday, or Holy Thursday, meaning the Thursday
before Easter. It celebrates Jesus' last supper before his execution.
Traditionally, it is the day when Jesus washed the feet of his
disciples and told them to serve others as he served them.
Consequently, in many churches, both Protestant and Roman Catholic,
the priest or pastor washes the feet of the congregants on this day.
The Middle English word "Maundy", used only in this context,
derives from Old French "mand" and from Latin "mandamentum" (i.e.
commandment), in reference to the opening words of the Catholic
liturgy for this day, Mandatum novum do vobis, "a new commandment I
give unto you" (John xiii:34), words spoken by Jesus to the Apostles
after washing their feet in preparation for the Last Supper.
The day has also been known as Sheer Thursday, due to the
idea that it is the day of cleaning ("schere") and because the
churches themselves would switch liturgical colours from the dark
tones of Lent.
Outside English-speaking countries it is universally known as Holy
Christian Orthodox in Bulgaria mark Maundy Thursday, also known as
Holy Thursday or Great and Holy Thursday. Maundy Thursday is the
Christian feast or Holy day falling on the Thursday before Easter that
commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles. It is
followed by Good Friday.
According to the Orthodox tradition, Maundy Thursday is the day to dye
the Easter eggs.
The first egg must always be dyed in red. It is
put aside from all others to replace the one from the previous year.
The egg is kept for the entire year due to the belief that the first
red egg will bring health, joy and happiness to the people in the
The second egg is also red and it is left in the Church during the
Saturday evening Mass, which continues after midnight or the next day.
If someone misses to dye their eggs on Holy Thursday, eggs can be dyed
on Holy Saturday, before Easter Sunday.
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