It is one of the few Albanian religious symbols that survived communism. Grandmothers dyed eggs blood red in a simple yet powerful sign of faith and rebellion against the atheism that snuffed out churches, killed priests and imams, and deprived Albanians of faith for 40 years. They did it in hiding, secretly celebrating Easter as they gave them to their grandchildren and families, risking death or interment for their families if caught.
Every Easter, Albanians of Orthodox and Catholic faith continue to dye eggs and give them out to one another. Many at home play a game where they knock each others eggs together and the one whose egg cracks loses.
Of course there is original symbolism to it. The egg representing new life, dyed in the color of Jesus blood. The cracked eggs representing the cracked tomb from which Jesus arose.
Along with the dyed eggs there is often a visit to the church on Saturday night to join the mass of people. Then there is feasting, roasted lamb, bread, and all kinds of Albanian delicacies.
Those eggs, dyed blood red, in a way symbolize the great faith potential within this people. Their history is truly a horror story in terms of religious experience. For centuries Albanians suffered under one religious regime after another. Run over alternately by the Greek empire or the Vatican or some other European power and then for 400 years suppressed and forcibly converted to Islam. Then as if all that wasn’t enough, 40 years under North Korea style communism, dictatorship and atheism. Finally they have arrived in New England, with its own atmosphere that ignores or mocks faith.
Yet today, even the agnostics and atheists still dye eggs on Easter. It’s as if there are still embers of faith tradition that are waiting to be lit on fire by the gospel. Under all the spiritual hardness, unbelief, brokenness, skepticism...an unknown longing for Jesus Christ.
This Saturday the 31st we will hold our Easter Outreach. Once again there will be a potluck, a kids program and lots of time for relationships and connections. It will likely be chaotic and loud with kids running around everywhere. Then as things quiet down I will share about Easter, Jesus death and resurrection with some video clips and I hope pointed words. Finally we will give to each of them an egg, dyed blood red. Hopefully, connecting the message of Jesus to that inward longing and tradition passed on.
The dyed eggs was Geris' idea. He is one of the Albanian believers who has joined this mission. Geris has been in the US for 17 years. Now around 40 he is married and has two kids. He moved to Boston a year ago for work with a tech firm downtown. His English is perfect and he attends a church in his area north of Boston. Yet he is Albanian through and through. And he is burdened by the Albanian community that is spread around him.
This Saturday night represents what is happening—something that feels both frighteningly and wonderfully out of my control. The coming together of a sort of team of Albanian believers from various places in Boston and the simultaneous gathering of Albanians from various places who don’t know Jesus yet, but for one reason or another and through some person or another have come. And then there is the essential reality of a budding partnership with Fort Square Presbyterian church which opens up their building for us and lets us take it over for the evening—not a small thing on Easter weekend.
Regardless of numbers and response, just the fact that this event is happening continues to amaze me and encourage me. Albanians are hearing the gospel, many of them for the first time. Believers are being encouraged and mobilized to reach their family and neighbors. And the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is being proclaimed and celebrated!
Would you pray with us for Saturday? Pray for God’s will to be done in all of it and for Jesus death and resurrection to be proclaimed clearly, embraced and believed on, and the source of new strength and transformation for the Albanian believers!
Rev. Jason Stryd spent several years as a missionary in Kosovo before helping establish an outreach among Albanian immigrants in Philadelphia, where he served for over ten years. Jason, his wife Kristine and their two children are now part of Christ the King, reaching out to the 50,000 Albanians that are part of the Albanian diaspora around Boston. For more information, visit https://www.ctkboston.org/projects/albanian-mission