The symbolism of the Easter egg was known and recorded by the Egyptians, Greeks, Persians, Chinese and other highly developed cultures. When eggs were dyed, additional power and meaning was ascribed to the colour. According to some sources, the Easter egg could predict the wheat, fruit or honey harvest and avert misfortune.
The myth of the Easter egg has been closely linked to the social and religious life of Lithuanian peasants – tillers of the soil and worshippers of nature. The coloured eggs were made especially for Easter and St. George’s Day (April 23rd).
The most important aspect of the Easter egg for the Lithuanian cultural tradition was its artistic features: the variety and layering of tone, ingenuity and composition of pattern, and the use of ancient symbolism.
In his seminal book Lithuanian Easter Eggs, Antanas Tamošaitis published his vast collection of illustrations, begun in 1928, as well as background information on traditions and techniques.
In ancient times, before the advent of Christianity, many ethnic groups held elaborate festivals commemorating the Spring Rite. In Lithuania, Easter was the most important and widely celebrated festival of the year. During the week before Easter, Tamošaitis writes, preparations for egg-dyeing included gathering natural dyes such as oak or alder bark, sprigs of budding birch, other twigs and mosses. Throughout Lent, housewives collected onion skins, apple peelings, nutshells, herbs and dried flowers for boiling as a dye. Vinegar or alum was used to strengthen the colours. The eggs were either boiled with the dye or the dye was applied to them after boiling, in one or several colour-baths.
Some eggs were left white, for the application of patterns, others were dyed for scratch-patterning. After drying a dyed egg, a pen-knife or shard of glass was used to create a scratch pattern.
The scratch technique bears similarities to Lithuanian bronze and silver artifacts dating back to the 11-15th centuries. The linear strokes are also repeated in the carved wooden distaffs of the 18-19th centuries.
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The wax pattern technique, called the batik method for fabric-dyeing, is used in many countries. For wax-patterned Easter eggs, Lithuanians used a drawing pin, a small nail, fishbone or shard of wood. Beeswax is best for tracing patterns because of its low melting-point, although tallow is also used. A pin is embedded in the end of a small stick (or today, the eraser end of a pencil), and the head of the pin is dipped into the hot wax and immediately applied to the surface of the egg to form dots or strokes for a pattern.
The wax-patterned eggs are immersed in a dye-bath, then dried and heated gently in a hot towel to melt the wax, or the wax is lightly scraped away. To produce a multi-coloured egg, more wax is applied to dyed areas of the egg, which is then placed in another colour-bath, and so on. The wax is then removed to reveal the final pattern.
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Traditional Crosses in Lithuania:
Lithuania is sometimes called the land of crosses. Crosses and unique pillar shrines with various sculptures have been an integral part of the Lithuanian landscape for several hundred years. They represent not only religious symbolism but national identity especially in times of repression. We will look at and discuss the amazing wooden carving and iron work of this important folk art and touch on the well known Kryziu Kalnas (Hill of Crosses) site in Lithuania.
Wool Crafts in Lithuania: Although linen features prominently in Lithuanian folktales and folk songs, we rarely hear about wool. However in the cold climate working with wool was an integral part of daily life forrural villagers in Lithuania. Small farms were self-sufficient; little or no money was needed to supplement the household’s home production. All the women and girls in a family spun, wove, knitted, and felted wool to create all of the households woolens.
Easter Palms (Verbos)
History and Significance of Verbos in Lithuanian Life: Palm Sunday is an important part of the Easter tradition. Learn about the history of decorated palms and get to know the customs and decorative techniques specific to Lithuania. (Please note, this is not a hands-on workshop.)
Black Ceramics (Juoda Keramica)
History and use of black ceramics in Lithuania: The tradition of black ceramics has been documented in Lithuania for centuries. Although eventually falling out of favour due to other pottery techniques, Lithuania is one of the few places that still make this beautiful pottery. Learn about the history, techniques and artistry of black ceramics.
Gintaras – Our Golden Heritage: Gintaras, or Amber, has been important to Lithuanians and Baltic people for millennia. Important in terms of culture, art and symbolism. Learn about various aspects of Amber to bring you to a new and better understanding and appreciation of this beautiful “golden stone”.
Easter Eggs (Marguciai)
History and Significance of Easter Eggs in Lithuanian Life: The egg has long been seen as a symbol of fertility and life. Learn about the role of decorated eggs in ancient and modern times. Get to know the customs and decorative techniques specific to Lithuania.
We are excited to launch our online LTFAI Talks. We hope to have a series of talks on topics that are relevant to Lithuanian folk art. These are lectures, not workshops, that will provide interesting information for anyone interested in folk art.
They will be from a half hour to a full hour in length with time for discussion at the end.
Each LTFAI Talk is free but you have to register to get an invitation to the session.
Raised in the Lithuanian community in Hamilton, Ontario. He moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba, to attend university and was a long-time board member of the Lithuanian Canadian Community there and now serves as the resource person for inquiries about the Lithuanians in Manitoba. Giles has over 30 years of experience in municipal heritage conservation planning and public outreach, having retired as the City of Winnipeg’s Senior Planner for Heritage. He is also a current member of the LTFAI Board.
Ramune is a translator and editor, who worked with the Canadian Lithuanian Weekly Tėviškės žiburiai as managing editor for over 20 years.
She is also an artisan who makes mosaics and jewellery using Lithuanian motifs and amber. She is a long time member of LTFAI and has recently served on our board. She learned tapestry-weaving from Aldona Vaitonienė, a master weaver in Toronto, Canada.
Testimonials: My first ever tapestry. I am an artist so I did a little extra with the beads and wire cord to hang. It reminds me of a dress so I had fun with that thought. 😉
I think you did an excellent job with the workshop, especially for those of us with no experience weaving. I have already ordered yarn. The colors in this piece was whatever my friend gave me as I was not able to go out shopping.
Newsletters will include events, online events, crafting classes, and talks about Lithuanian heritage topics.
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