Greek Easter traditions vary around Greece, but no matter where you go, you’ll find a common factor – the red eggs.
Boiled and dyed either on Holy Thursday or Saturday, the egg’s shells symbolise the empty rock tomb from which Jesus Christ rose following his Crucifixion.
Another story goes that Mary Magdalene was the first person to have seen the empty tomb of Jesus, and she rushed to inform the Roman emperor of the miracle. He did not believe her and announced he would only believe her claims if the eggs in the basket turned red instantly, which they did.
Then there’s the third variation about Virgin Mary offering eggs to her son’s guards so that they would treat him well, but they turned red when soaked with her tears.
The eggs are dyed red on Holy Thursday to commemorate the Last Supper.
How to play?
The word “tsougrisma” means “clinking together” or “clashing”.
The game of cracking, or “tsougrisma” as the Greeks call it, symbolises the breaking open of the tomb and Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead. The custom takes place after the resurrection on Easter Saturday at midnight or the following day during Paschal feasts.
Two people compete by holding their respective egg in their hand and tapping at each other’s egg. The goal is to crack the other player’s egg.
The winner, then, uses the same end of the egg to tap the other non-cracked end of the opponent’s egg. The “winner” is the one whose egg will crack the eggs of all other players.
Everyone taps the narrow end first to see which one breaks. The person doing the tapping says “Christos Anesti!” (Christ has risen), and the one being tapped says “Alithos Anesti!” (Indeed, he has). The taps start from the narrow end and then the wide ends of the shell. The last to crack is the winner.
The tradition is not unique to Greece, and also takes place in India, Croatia, Romania and in Jewish culture. In the UK and he US, egg jarping is a competitive sport with strict rules and special diets for the hens of the competitors. There’s even the World Egg Jarping Championships for enthusiasts.
- Choose the right eggs
Colour does not matter white shells are no better than brown ones however, it does play a role if the hens were farm-reared or commercial with free-range eggs having harder shells because of the better diet which the chickens. Organic eggs from experience are the best also the smaller the egg it seems from experience the better chance of winning.
- Boiling process
According to the Egg Jarping Association, it pays to boil the eggs pointy end down to ensure the air pocket at the bottom doesn’t shift to weaken the strength of the shell. Leave the eggs at room temperature and don’t boil directly from the refrigerator. Inspect for cracks.
- Making it hard
If you’re hell-bent on winning you can paint the shell with clear nail varnish or a coat of glue.
- Make the right choice
Larger is not necessarily better, so choose eggs which are pristine without any cracks. The pointier the narrow end, the better.
Use a firm grip and come down hard on your opponent in a swift free flowing movement.
If all else fails, get a fake wooden egg and beat the rest of your family.