Easter eggs. | wikipedia

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How eggs­­­-citing! Easter is now well within our sights, literally only a bunny hop away, and chocoholics, with the threat of strikes across island deliveries, have been stashing away choccy eggs for weeks. The idea was probably to keep them for Easter. But if the general population is anything like me, those chocolate orbs get eaten as quickly as they are purchased, so there is no real ‘stash’ to speak of. Apparently, back in the UK, Easter eggs have been in the shops since Christmas, but thankfully, they only make a show here in Mallorca closer to the big event. So, I have been trying to take advantage and make hay while the sun shines!

Talking of sunshine, after possibly the coldest winter I can recall since moving here to the island, how wonderful that the sun finally came out to play. (Well it did while I was writing this!) And those golden rays on the back of the neck have truly warmed my heart. Having said that, it was the recent sighting of colourful tiny tots, trotting along holding hands in a line, whilst being led through the village by their teachers which actually melted my heart. So indescribably cute! And if they had been dressed as Easter eggs then that would have just finished me. In a world full of such senseless horror at the moment, it was inspiring that such a simple image could comfort and heal.

I am not a particularly pious person, yet I fully appreciate and enjoy the ideals and beliefs behind tradition, religious or otherwise, and all celebrations that bring the love between people and their cultures together has got to be a good thing. Albeit at times, perhaps without the participants even realising or understanding the origins of their celebrated occasion! More often than not, people simply go with the flow and follow the fiesta, without questioning the historic footprint behind the event.

Here in Mallorca, there are so many fiestas, I sometimes wonder if it’s the calendar or the occasion which dictates the celebration! This ‘advent’ always takes place during a certain week! That ‘parade’ always happens on a particular day! etc. etc. It’s a roller coaster ride of festivity which repeats its circuit year after year with unshakable regularity.

Historically, the Holy Week of Easter is the most important and passionate fiesta on the Balearic calendar; not only showcasing the most revered religious holiday in the Christian diary, but marking the irrefutable start of the island’s tourist season, which also means work and employment for many people who have been ‘resting’ or ‘laid off’ throughout the winter.

Thanks to the curse of Covid, the island’s last public celebration of Easter took place two years ago. Yet with carefully considered protocol, the post pandemic ‘Semana Santa processions’ are now scheduled to go ahead – a huge victory for the traditional Meeting of Brotherhoods of Mallorca.

However, both here and in UK, there are many people (particularly children) whose main association with Easter celebration is acquiring a deluge of chocolate eggs rather than commemorating the resurrection of Christ, who is actually leading the big parade.

Here in Mallorca, local pastries hold a bigger pull than the Easter egg. Empanades – a small meat pie, are made and eaten, along with Cocarrois – crescent shaped pastries with a filling of vegetables, raisins and pine nuts, to celebrate the end of Lent. Other local culinary treats include Robiols – a sweet pastry filled with confiture, and Crespells – a traditional Majorcan biscuit as crumbly as it is sweetly delicious.

So how did eggs turn up in the middle of Christianity’s biggest religious happening? And how, in some people’s eyes, did they become even more important than Christ? Whilst the chocolate egg is a relatively new tradition fronted by commercial manufacturers and retailers alike, pagan symbolism behind the humble egg predates Christianity by a huge bunny hop, which also introduces ‘the rabbit’ into this mysterious Easter mix!

Rabbits (or more correctly, hares) have long been identified as potent symbols of fertility in pagan culture. And as for the egg, well it speaks for itself, doesn’t it? The beginning of life, with a cheeky visual nod to the pale lunar orb of the Moon, another major fertility reference!

Chocolate eggs were introduced throughout Europe in the early 19th century, with France and Germany paving the confectionery pathway. John Cadbury developed his famously iconic ‘eating chocolate recipe’ in 1842, yet it was not until 1875 that the first Cadbury’s chocolate Easter eggs were produced for the masses.

However, none of these contemporary symbols - eggs, milk chocolate bunnies or chirping chicks, have anything to do with the true Christian belief and celebration behind Easter. And I was totally puzzled by the origins of a chocolate ‘unicorn’ I discovered recently in a supermarket, although it was delicious!

Christmas Day always falls on December 25, yet the date for Easter is never fixed, but rather calculated in conjunction with the phase of our lunar orb, always falling on the first Sunday following the full moon at the time of the Spring equinox, when the length of the days and nights are equal.

Recorded throughout history, many ancient cultures celebrated this springtime ‘rite’ as a natural time for birth and renewal, following the darkness and hardship of a long winter. The exact date of Christ’s crucifixion is also flexible, and seems to follow the moon in this moving trend! Over time, the birth of Christianity has casually woven its own heartfelt beliefs and traditions into the Easter that we now know and celebrate today across the island during this coming week.

But, like most fiestas here in Mallorca, Easter is not only commemorated with prayers and processions, but with baking and eating. Local housewives will undoubtedly be busy all week rolling and crimping for all they are worth. Yet sadly . . . here on the island, not a hot cross bun in sight!

It is reported that in jolly old England, a 12th century Anglican monk, supposedly applied a simple pastry cross to a sweet bun in honour of Good Friday, which in turn has now become another undeniable symbol of Easter. A further delight we can tuck into as we ponder and reflect on the past origins of tradition.

On one of our first visits to the island, Other Half and I made our own pilgrimage to Pollensa on Good Friday to witness the well documented and spectacular ‘Devallament’, an intense reenactment of Jesus being ceremoniously taken down from the cross. The lowering of Christ’s body, and the solemn, torch-lit procession by ‘penitents’, carrying the effigy down the 365 Calvari steps to the church in the main square, was totally mesmerizing and a truly moving experience, which I wasn’t quite expecting. Very humbling.
It was an eerily silent procession, aimed to reflect both peace and harmony. And whatever faith you follow, this particular procession arouses thoughts of compassion, tolerance, and spiritual acceptance for the beliefs and differences of others. Not just Christianity but global religions. Therefore, it is important to remember, in a world so currently divided, that although we don’t have to accept each others beliefs, we do have to respect each others right to believe in them.

Let’s hope that the parody of a ‘new beginning’ behind the symbolism of the humble Easter egg actually kicks in during the coming week, and we can all start looking forward to a bigger, brighter, better and more peaceful world all round!