Why do we have Easter eggs at Easter? You might have asked yourself that question before. After all, the Easter story, as told in the Bible, doesn’t involve any eggs. So what is the meaning behind Easter eggs?
The tradition of making and giving decorated eggs didn’t begin with Easter. The practice of decorating eggs dates back nearly 60,000 years to the predynastic Egyptians. The ancient Egyptians would decorate ostrich eggs in gold and silver to honor their loved ones, who were buried with these intricate gifts.
As a long-standing symbol of life and death, the egg has popped up regularly throughout history by most civilizations. Now, nearly 2000 years later, Easter and the Easter egg have become a prominent part of our yearly festivities. You can find out more about why we have Easter eggs at Easter below.
Why do we have Easter eggs at Easter?
The story of Easter starts with the last supper; this was a meal that Jesus shared with his disciples before he was betrayed by Judas and executed. The Last Supper is a Jewish event known as Passover. Passover meals usually included a white egg.
It’s thought that the Christian custom of the Easter egg came from this Passover egg, which in the early days of Easter was dyed red to symbolize the blood of Christ that was spilled that Passover, and often adorned with a golden cross that was a depiction of the crucifix that Jesus died on.
Using chocolate to make Easter eggs was a turning point in Easter egg history, and it all started in 1725 in the Court of King Louis XIV (14) in Versailles. The widow Giambone poured molten chocolate into empty chicken egg shells, and the first chocolate Easter egg was born.
During ancient times many people would give up dairy foods for Lent; by the end of Lent, there were so many eggs left over, and the Easter season has always been about eating loads of eggs. Eventually, made out of chocolate, they were given as gifts. It was thought that the practice of exchanging sugary treats was because many people had started to give up sugar for Lent instead of dairy – but the egg remained.
Nowadays, many people give chocolate eggs to their friends and family to celebrate Easter.
In many European countries, such as Germany, Sweden, and Poland, the practice of coloring chicken eggs and using them as decorations around the home at Easter persists. Below you’ll find a list of fun ways to decorate real eggs at home.
The meaning behind Easter eggs
Eggs are an ancient symbol of new life and have also been associated with fertility and death. Throughout history, eggs have been associated with pagan festivals celebrating spring. Although Easter is a religious festival, some traditions come from pagan customs.
The meaning behind Easter eggs is significant in terms of Christianity. First, because Easter is a holiday celebrating Jesus’ resurrection, Easter eggs are thought to represent Jesus emerging from the tomb and his resurrection.
Eggs were prized at Easter because hens never laid many eggs during winter before industrial farming. Because the production of eggs depends on light and there is a lack of sunlight in winter, there would be a lack of eggs during the colder months. However, hens began to lay eggs again when the sun came back out in spring, meaning eggs became associated with spring and, in turn, Easter.
Eggs were so valued that they became part of the payment for people’s salaries, including servants, people who worked at churches, and pastors.
Decorating tips and techniques for your eggs
You might want to decorate your eggs to celebrate Easter. You can use decorated eggs in your home to add some seasonal spirit. It can also be a great activity to do with children. Just be careful if you are using boiling water or beeswax.
Wrap raw onion skins around an egg and boil. The onion skins will break down and leave leaf-like markings across the surface of the shell. Adding dye to the water will color both the egg and the markings. This practice had gone on for so long that we’re not sure when or where it started!
Polish Pisanki Eggs
Using melted beeswax, you can draw a design across the egg by dipping the end of a pin into the wax and tracing it across the surface of the shell.
The beeswax will dry almost immediately onto the eggshell. However, ensure that your egg has cooled to room temperature before beginning your design. Once you’re happy with how it looks, then you can dip your egg into colored water; once it’s dried again, carefully remove the wax, and your design will have been stained on the shell.
This practice dates to pre-Christian times and has been found all over eastern Europe. Unfortunately, only shell fragments have remained, as they are fragile, but they have been unearthed at archaeological dig sites of the Piast era, a Polish dynasty from 960-1370.
Easter is also filled with great egg games!
Now you know why we have Easter eggs at Easter! But where do other eggy traditions come from?
The classic egg hunt is thought to have dated back to the early 1500s when Martin Luther, a German theologist, and priest, hid eggs around his home for women and children to find. The practice spread across Europe, and by the 1700s, the legend of the Easter bunny hiding eggs for children to find was born.
The bunny has also been associated with Easter because they appear in the spring. Other animals that tend to be associated with Easter are lambs and baby chicks. In Australia, there isn’t an Easter bunny – they have an Easter bilby, a cute mouse-like creature with big ears like a rabbit.
We’ve all run afoul (pun intended) of an egg-and-spoon race! This traditional race involves running from start to finish with an egg balanced on a spoon; if it drops and breaks, you lose. The race was first to run in England in 1894, and they were also a part of Queen Victoria’s 1897 diamond jubilee. Nowadays, people might use a ping pong ball instead of a real egg.