Lamb, tsoureki and red eggs has become synonymous with Greek Easter.
But it may seem strange to associate a red egg with Easter, and on top of them crack them too. So why do Greeks do this?
Despite this deep religious meaning, egg cracking has evolved into a fun tradition for the faithful of all ages in Greece and beyond, which many look forward to each Easter.
Traced back to the early Christians of Mesopotamia, the custom of painting eggs red — in memory of the blood of Christ shed at His crucifixion — spread into Eastern Europe and Siberia through the Orthodox Churches, and later into Western Europe through the Catholic and Protestant Churches.
However, the tradition evolved across Europe, with people from many different cultures — especially this in Eastern Europe — painting elaborate, multi-colored Easter eggs.
The Greek tradition of red Easter eggs has deep religious significance
In Greece, dying eggs red, symbolizing Christ’s blood, has held strong throughout the millennia as an Easter tradition.
The egg in itself is a symbol, as its hard shell represents the sealed tomb of Jesus — the cracking of which symbolizes His resurrection from the dead and exit from the tomb.
Due to its religious significance, the egg serves as an emblem of the resurrection, and its decorated Easter variations are globally recognized as a symbol of the most special day on the Christian calendar — Easter, the event that sealed the promise for eternal life.
According to some followers of Eastern Christianity, we owe the Easter tradition of painting eggs red to Mary Magdalene.
This tradition of some believers states that Mary Magdalene brought cooked eggs to share with the other women at the tomb of Jesus, and that the eggs in her basket miraculously turned brilliant red when she saw the risen Christ.
How to play tsougrisma with Easter eggs
In Greece, egg cracking, or tsougrisma (τσούγκρισμα in Greek), starts on the night of the Resurrection Service , the night before Easter, and continues the next day at the Greek Easter feast.
The red painted eggs are tapped against each other and cracked together between two people as they exchange the traditional Easter greeting “Christos anesti!” (“Christ has risen”) – “Alithos anesti!” (“He Truly Has”).
Tsougrisma is really easy for anyone to play, and has very simple rules.
Each player holds a red egg, and one taps the end of their egg against the end of the other player’s egg. The goal is to crack the opponent’s egg — without cracking yours, of course.
The rule is that you start with the same ends, pointy to pointy. When one end is cracked, the winner uses the same end of their egg to try to crack the other, undamaged end of the opponent’s egg.
It then all comes down to whichever egg remains undamaged. The player who successfully cracks the eggs of the other players is declared the winner and, it is said, will have good luck during the year.
Traditionally, when tapping the egg, the first player would say to his opponent “Christos anesti” (“Christ has risen!”), to which the second person responds “Alithos anesti!” (“He Truly Has”) as they return the tapping on their end.
How to win the egg cracking game
There are a few useful tips for winning at the annual Easter egg cracking.
Although one may find extensive preparation guides online on how to make eggs more durable for cracking competitions, when it comes to Easter egg cracking, you usually don’t have as much liberty of choice.
Unless you’ve prepared the eggs yourself and sabotaged the others, you have to pick from what is already boiled, dyed, and on the table.
Hence, your best shot to win the game, or at least the round, is to employ simple physics –structural mechanics, to be specific.
As geometric stiffness tells us that the curvier the egg, the better it will perform, go for the pointiest egg you can see in the basket or on the platter.
Hold your egg in a grip as close to the tapping end as possible, so that it can only be hit at the curviest spot on the top while the sides are supported.
A good idea is to try to steer the game by hitting first. It does not matter how hard you hit the opponent’s egg, but do aim for a flatter surface near the end that you are hitting.
Global popularity of egg cracking
Variations of egg cracking are practiced in a few countries — but the game is not always as spirited as in the Greek Easter custom.
In Italy they have the same game, called “scuccetta,” only it is done with plain eggs, not red ones.
In parts of Austria, Bavaria and German-speaking Switzerland the egg cracking of colored Easter eggs is popularly known as “Ostereiertitschen” or “Eierpecken.”
When practice has made you perfect at egg cracking, maybe you can challenge yourself at the annual Egg Cracking World Championship in Peterlee, Durham, UK — using plain eggs again though, which makes the experience quite dull in comparison to the more festive red-colored egg cracking in Greece.
A word of warning, however — beware of winning a “pocking eggs” game in southern Louisiana; the winner has to eat the eggs of the losers in each round. Sneaky!