“The earth as yet yields nothing. The trees bear no fruit. Eggs are the first gift of reanimated nature. — The Easter Eggs by Christophe von Schmid, 1814
Thus said a mysterious noble lady who had fallen upon hard times and made her way through Bavarian forests to seek refuge among the peasants. Though she was a stranger in their midst, the folk of this isolated village strove to make her comfortable, each according to their own talents and gifts–a cottage, cheese and bread, wood to burn and wild fowl to eat. She was astonished to find they had never known the value of a laying hen and so she sent her servant abroad to sell her jewels that he might return with several chickens and a rooster.
Throughout the winter she planned to repay the villagers’ kindness with a rustic festival on Easter. After they had journeyed to the church two leagues and back again, the children were invited to the lady’s garden. There they ate a special dish made of eggs and warm milk. Then the lady led them into a small wood nearby where they were instructed to make little nests of the moss that grew around the base of trees. Back to the garden to partake of an egg-shaped cake while the lady’s servant slipped into the wood and placed hardened eggs, dyed of various colors, into the nests.
When the children were urged back to the spot where they had made their nests, their astonishment was great:
“Oh!” said a little boy. “They must be rare birds to lay such pretty eggs; I should so like to see them.”
“Ah,” said the youngest of the children, “hens do not lay them, I am sure. I believe they were laid by the hare that I saw come out of those juniper-bushes when I was looking for moss to make my nest.”
All the children immediately burst into a laugh, and jokingly said: “It is the hare which has laid all the colored eggs!”
A joke which is common to this day in many countries.