An Egg Adorned With a Horseshoe: A Unique Kind of Art

It is well known that any traditional Romanian family usually has eggs on its Easter table. However, some take this tradition to the next level, adorning them with an unexpected accessory.

eggs with a horseshoe in hands
The craft of hoofing eggs, which was once the ultimate test for becoming a master blacksmith, is a treat for Easter tables across Romania. Photo: Amel Emric / Associated Press / East News

Decorating Easter eggs has long been a tradition throughout Romanian history, the red egg being a symbol of the bloodshed by Jesus Christ at his crucifixion. In Moldova and Bucovina, Easter eggs are decorated following a popular religious custom that could be called a form of art. The materials used for decorating are colored wax, various patterns, and a “chișiță” (a wooden pencil made especially for decorating eggs). However, most Romanians use a much simpler method of coloring Easter eggs, simply dyeing them in natural or synthetic colors.

This popular tradition consists of hard-boiling eggs, cooling them, and then dipping them in a pot of paint, most traditionally a splendid red color quite often obtained by using red onion leaves for dyeing. These painted eggs are a staple of the Romanian holiday table, and people (kids, especially) can hardly wait to participate in egg tapping competitions. This is a game in which two players hold painted, hard-boiled eggs and tap them together, with the first person saying, “Christ is risen!” and the other person responding, “Truly he is risen!” The goal is to be the last with a crack-free shell.

However, some artisans in Romania are making next-level art with their Easter offerings. Even if, at first sight, the phrase “horseshoe eggs” seems like something unfeasible, various artists around Romania manage to do the impossible. They put an actual horseshoe on the egg and affix it with nails onto the shell. Voilà – like magic! Though some of these craftsmen might not consider themselves artists, they most certainly are by nature.

One tough shell to crack

The origins of the craft of hoofing eggs have nothing to do with the Easter holidays. A long time ago, in the big blacksmith shops, this activity was the ultimate test of discipline to become a master blacksmith after completing an apprenticeship. It was a test of their skills because, in theory, if one were able to nail something so delicate as an egg without cracking it, working with metal would be like child’s play. Adding another layer of difficulty is that each had only one attempt. In the many years since this practice caught on, thousands of eggs have been shod. However, many times more than that have been cracked.

The most needed ingredient to complete this process is patience, as a single egg takes a skilled artisan around two hours.  Any kind of eggs can be used, but the horseshoe and the nails have to be made of lead. The climax is always the point when the horseshoe must be fixed. Six or eight nails are used to hold the horseshoe in place, so even one second of distraction is enough for all of the work to be lost. If the shell does break, the horseshoe must be redone to be adjusted to the shape of another egg.

Nowadays, horseshoe eggs are a gift in many homes, even international ones. People from all over the world have the chance to enjoy this talent, even you, dear reader. So if you want a special gift, stop putting it off! Come to Romania to visit one of these few remaining masters. You might discover an art that few still know today.

Ioana Marandici

Student in the “Diplomacy and International Negotiations” Master’s program at the National University of Political and Administrative Studies. Passionate about the interactions between different cultures, travelling, international relations and how my own national culture fits in this complex mechanism.

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