The mysterious origins of the Dancing Egg
A form of entertainment with Arab origins? A celebration of the height of spring? A representation of the sacred form? A custom imported from Italy? Both the origin and the meaning of the Dancing Egg, the most popular feature of the Corpus Christi festivities in Barcelona, are difficult to explain.The ritual appears to have been documented for the first time in 1440, in the account books of the Cathedral.There is a note that mentions the expenses for organising the chapel for Corpus Christi day, and also a record noting the cost of a batch of eggs for the fountain.
However, it is difficult to ascertain precisely when this tradition first started and if it dates back to before the Corpus Christi festival, which was established in the 13th century.One of the theories, which puts its origins further back in history, is one that sees similarities between the Dancing Egg and the water tricks that the Muslims played in the fountains of the interior patios.One such water trick was to swing a ball on a jet of water from a spring.
On Festes.org, one of the most well-known theories of the origin of this curious display is explained, which suggests the custom came from Italy.But, as always, there are variations: there are those who believe it was a Dominican friar who imported the ‘l’uovo che danzava’ from a small town and others who believe it was a Napolese custom that was brought to the city during the reign of King Alfonso the Magnanimous.According to this theory, the nobility from Carrer de Montcada adopted the custom and, while they were waiting for the procession to pass, they entertained themselves making the egg dance in the palace fountain.There are also a variety of theories concerning its meaning.Some link it directly to the symbolism of the Corpus Christi festival, which celebrates the doctrine of the incarnation of Jesus in bread and wine.Based on this idea, the egg and the fountain would represent the Eucharistic host and the chalice.There are also people who see it as a metaphor for the height of spring, the time when fertility reaches its peak and life is in full bloom, represented through the egg- a universal symbol of fertility- and a fountain decorated with flowers.