April 3, 2015
On Easter Day, 1890, the Tsar of Russia, Alexander III, presented his wife Maria with a very special gift. It was a Fabergé egg, and although this was not the first one she had received from him, on that Easter morning it would prove to be one of the most exceptional.
As the beautiful Dagmar of Denmark, as she was also known (she was the daughter of Christian IX, King of Denmark from 1863-1906), unwrapped her beautiful gift the ten stunningly hand painted watercolor screens were discovered hidden inside. One can only imagine the gratitude she felt for her husband and his heartfelt gift. For painted on several of the screens were stunning depictions of Maria’s most cherished childhood places from her home country of Denmark. They included, Bernstorff Slot (Palace), Copenhagen; the Kejserens Villa in Fredensborg Park; Fredensborg Slot, Copenhagen; Amalienborg Palace (near her birthplace of The Yellow Palace), Copenhagen; and Kronborg Castle, Helsingør.
The Tsar made it a point to give these beautiful creations to his wife and mother over the years, and later, as his son Nicholas II grew older, he too would carry on this family tradition. In all there were 50 Faberge eggs created for the Imperial family between 1885 and 1916. Of those, only 42 still survive today, including Maria’s Danish Palaces Egg.
This story is just one illustration of the many Easter traditions that families, Royal or not, participate in each year. If you too celebrate Påske (Danish for Easter) then chances are you are familiar with them and revel in some of your own special family traditions each year. There are decorations, crafts, and games using eggs; the traditional Danish teaser letter, gækkebreve; baskets full of gifts, chocolate and candy; specific Easter colors; a visit from the Easter Bunny; special foods and many other Easter traditions. But how did these traditions come about, and what is their significance at the heart of what Easter truly represents?
The Easter Bunny’s start in America began in the 1700s when emigrating Germans brought stories of the egg-laying hare with them to America. Both the rabbit and the egg have long been symbols of fertility, life and rebirth, a fitting emblem for the Christian holiday. Children would make a nest for the mythical creature to lay its colored eggs. In time, the nest was replaced by a basket filled with more commercialized ‘treats’.
Decorating eggs is a tradition that dates back to the 13th century when eating eggs was a forbidden food during the Lenten season. People would paint and decorate eggs to mark the period of penance, saving them to eat on Easter. Today the egg is still the holiday’s most prominent symbol. We continue to decorate eggs, hollow them out to use as decorations for branches and trees, and use them to participate in activities, crafts and games. One of the most popular being The White House Egg Roll, created by First Lady Dolley Madison in the 1800s and held the Monday after Easter on the While House lawn.
At the heart of it all, Easter symbolizes rebirth, renewal and awakening, both literally and figuratively. Spring occurs at a time of year when there is growth of both flora and fauna, a natural “waking up” after a long, cold winter. Just seeing the colors of spring give us a renewed sense of optimism and enthusiasm. So it is only natural that greens, yellows and pinks would represent the colors of Easter, and that daffodils and the snowdrop (a traditionally Danish flower) would be ‘official’ Easter blooms.
Here’s wishing you a bright and cheery Easter weekend!
What is your favorite Easter tradition? Leave a comment here, or comment on your favorite social media site and show your Danish pride using the hashtag #myfavdanishtradition