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    Volume 9 Issue 15| April 9, 2010|

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A Roman Column

An Eggs-eptional Holiday

Neeman Sobhan

My university is closed for Pasqua or Easter, and yesterday, Saturday, I was at my local Supermercato to stock up on a few essentials before it closed for Easter Sunday, and Monday, called affectionately Pasquetta, or little Easter.

I didn't have much to buy actually, this last minute grocery being only a 'what-if-I need' panic attack, which I insist on pointing out, many perfectly calm and well-organised housewives have. I mean what if a war breaks out, or a storm, or okay, a dozen unexpected guests land up for dinner?

Anyway, there I was at the only counter open, clutching a bottle of milk, a box of tea bags, a sack of onions, a loaf of bread and thou….or anyone to unburden me from my cardboard container of a dozen eggs precariously nestling between my chin and my crowded chest, and save me from dropping the lot on the floor, since I had not bothered to take the store's shopping basket.

And the lady ahead of me had a loaded trolley that she was unhurriedly emptying. Here I was worrying about making a giant omelette on the floor, while this woman was unloading another sort of egg concoction on the counter: the ubiquitous giant gift-wrapped chocolate Easter eggs that always fill the groceries for weeks before Easter. But, come on, fifteen of them?

Oh! Hurry up! I whined inside getting a stiff neck from holding in place the now warmly coddled eggs to my maternal, angora chest where I was afraid they would begin to hatch and call me 'mamma' by the time my lady's ciocolatto coated Uova di Pasqua would be checked out, one delicate package after the other! Ah! Come on! I begged silently. It was not as if these commercially produced gestures to Easter were Fabergé Eggs commissioned by some Czar. It's just a chocolate bubble filled with some plastic 'surprise' toy that kids never play with anyway, and an edible shell that no one really eats but melts everywhere. This has been my experience with giving and receiving the Easter chocolate egg when I was a mother of young kids.

The shopping episode goes without incidence, thank God. I even snap out of my Scrooge like mood and smile at the lady of the Eggs.

"Buona Pasqua!" I say.
"Kid's party. For Pasquetta," She rolls her eyes as she exits.

I smile sympathetically and the middle-aged check-out lady laughs, "Thank God mine are grown up. But Pasqua is generally more fun. As they say, 'Natale con i tuoi…"

"…e Pasqua con chi vuoi." I finish.
Christmas with your family and Easter with whomever you wish.


Today is Easter Sunday. It's wet and cold and my street is quiet. Every Italian family is together with their own or with whomever they wish for a huge Easter lunch of lamb. The table will probably display some painted, dyed eggs, and at the end of the meal some chocolate eggs for sure.

But what is the relationship between Easter and eggs, someone had once asked me. I think the answer lies in the Latin proverb: Omne vivum ex ovo. 'All life comes from an egg.'

In most cultures, eggs are the symbol of life. The ancient Persians celebrated their New Year, the Nowroz, which coincides with the Spring Equinox, by decorating eggs. In some programme on the History channel they mentioned how after Christ's Ascension, Mary Magdalene went to the Roman Emperor and greeted him with 'Christ has arisen.' The Roman Emperor pointed to an egg on his table and said, "Christ has not risen any more than that egg is red." Upon this, apparently, the egg turned blood red.

To this day the tradition exists of dyeing eggs red because many Christians believe that the red symbolises the blood of Christ, redeeming and regenerating the world represented by the egg. Even un-tinged with red, the egg is considered a symbol of the Resurrection because it signifies life renewed by breaking out of it.

In medieval Christian Europe eggs were forbidden during the Lent fast, and it was during Easter that the consumption of eggs resumed. It became a part of Easter meals and a valued gift for children and servants, thus associating eggs with Easter.

Today, as families gather and feast, I am at home, quite happy to be by myself at my desk writing away while I gorge on a boiled egg and toast not because I have nothing else to eat or because I believe in the Easter bunny but because all this talk about eggs has made me hungry for the pure and simple pleasure of a hard boiled and shelled satiny pale ovoid shape that if halved carefully can reveal the perfectly round golden sun at the epicenter, containing perhaps the mystery of life, and the eternal question: should I have a another? Another delicious hard boiled and satiny pale ovoid…. etc. etc. It is after all Easter.

I sign off with shells under my thumb, a smile on my face and to all, the message that just arrived on my cell phone from a friend: Affettuosi auguri di Pasqua!


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