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The egg is a very versatile food. Used as an ingredient and a complete meal, it can be cooked in hundreds of ways. The egg is at the height of its popularity during Easter because it represents renewal and the beginning of a new life.

Before eggs were connected with Easter, they were used to represent other festivals. The Zoroastrians painted eggs for Navroze (the spring equinox New Year festival) in a tradition that has existed for at least 2,500 years. At Passover Seder (the beginning of the Jewish festival of Passover) a hardboiled egg dipped in salt water is used as a symbol of sacrifice.

Eggs became synonymous with Easter in the late 17th and 18th centuries and were usually dyed red. As their popularity grew, particularly in the Slavic countries, a batik process was used to cover the eggs in intricate and brilliant colours. The most well known process hailed from Ukraine and was called pysanka.

The beauty of Easter eggs went to a new level when Czar Alexander II of Russia commissioned an egg for his wife the Empress Maria Fedorovna from the House of Faberge in 1885. Crafted from gold with a matte yellow gold yolk, the egg contained a gold hen and a minute diamond replica of the Imperial crown from which a small ruby pendant was suspended.

While many of the traditions related to Easter eggs have faded with time, there are still lots of ways to enjoy your eggs this Easter. Try the time honoured tradition of painting and dyeing eggs, or you can buy or bake a chocolate or marshmallow egg. And if you are in the mood to do something really radical, go the savoury route and whip up a batch of devilled eggs. Whatever you do, have a happy Easter!

— Marylou Andrew
Easter will be celebrated on Sunday, April 8, 2012.

First published in the Adbuzzzz Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on April 4, 2010.

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