Chocolate Easter eggs and colorful egg-themed sugar confectionery begin appearing in shop fronts giving them a lively feel. Here in Portugal you often see the traditional Easter bread called "folar," a very simple bread made of wheat flour, salt, egg and water, and although there are some slight regional differences, folar always have whole boiled eggs embedded in the top.
Folar are associated with the ideas of friendship and reconciliation. Here is the legend that explains the origin of this association.
There was a young woman called Mariana who lived in a village somewhere in Portugal. Her only wish was to get married as soon as possible. She prayed to Saint Catherine every day for her wish to be granted. Then, her wish came true when 2 potential husbands showed up. One was a wealthy gentleman, the other a poor farmer.
Now Mariana prayed to Saint Catherine for guidance on choosing the right one. As she was fervently praying, someone knocked on the door. It was Amaro (the poor farmer), come for Mariana's reply to his proposal. Mariana wasn't ready to give her answer, so Amaro decided to wait until Palm Sunday.
When Sunday finally came, Mariana's neighbor came to see her in great haste and told her that the gentleman and the farmer had been on their way to Mariana's house when they confronted each other and were now fighting each other to the death. Mariana franticly ran to where the two men were fighting and called out the name of the poor farmer "Amaro!". On the night of Palm Sunday, Mariana heard a rumor that the gentleman would come to the wedding and kill Amaro. Fear gripped her. Once again, Mariana prayed to Saint Catherine. This time, hearing Mariana's prayer, Saint Catherine is said to have replied with a smile.
The next day, Mariana went to offer flowers at Saint Catherine's shrine. When Mariana got home, on the table together with some flowers, she found a cake with whole eggs embedded in the top. She noticed that the flowers were the same as the ones she had just offered at the shrine, so she rushed to Amaro's house. On her way she came across Amaro who told her that the same sort of cake had appeared on his table too.
The 2 decided that they must be gifts from the gentleman and that they should go to see him at his home and thank him. To their great surprise, they discovered that he too had been given the same sort of cake.
This, Mariana was convinced, was all the work of Saint Catherine.
In keeping with this legend, godsons traditionally give their godmothers flowers on Palm Sunday ("Domingo de Ramos"), and in return the godmothers give their godsons a folar.
We aren't devout Christians, so we don't share that custom, but we do have an Easter egg hunt, which the children look forward to every year. It's a kind of game where the children hunt for Easter eggs (mostly egg-shaped chocolates, etc.) that we hide beforehand around the garden. Our oldest child doesn't eat sweets but manages to grab most of the hidden eggs (sweets) with incredible speed. Our youngest loves sweets, but doesn't manage to find many, not even coming close to the oldest's haul, so things often end on the verge of tears… This too is a routine occurrence at our place.