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History and Symbolism of Easter Eggs

Cracking the Symbolism of Easter Eggs

Whether you enjoy them hard-boiled, poached, fried, or deviled, eggs are a kitchen staple and delicious in any form. While breakfast has made the egg a culinary celebrity, it's Easter that has transformed the egg into a cultural icon. Springtime brings us eggs colorfully dyed or reincarnated in chocolate, but the Easter egg actually boasts a rich history, dating back thousands of years to pre-Christian cultures.

  • While we usually attribute the Easter egg to the Christian holiday, pre-Christian Saxons celebrated the egg as a symbol of fertility during the Spring equinox, representing the rebirth of life in the new season.
  • Later, eggs came to symbolize the resurrection of Jesus Christ, much for the same reason. Historians credit Pope Gregory I with merging the traditions and symbols of the pagan Spring festival with the Christian celebration of Easter. Even the name of the holiday is a derivative of the Spring goddess Eostre.
  • The dyeing of Easter eggs comes from an Orthodox and Eastern Catholic tradition of coloring eggs red to represent the blood of Christ. The egg's shell represents the tomb of Christ, so cracking the egg symbolizes his resurrection.
  • Historically, the eating of eggs was forbidden during Lent. But this didn't stop chickens from laying, so households hard-boiled the eggs to keep them from spoiling and ate them quickly come Easter.
  • Started in 1814 by Dolley Madison, the annual Easter Egg Roll on the White House's South Lawn is a race in which children push an Easter egg across the grass with a spoon. However, rolling Easter eggs traces its origins to Europe as a symbol of the rolling away of the boulder from Jesus's tomb before the resurrection.
  • The famous Fabergé eggs were intricately jeweled and gilded pieces created for Russian royalty before the 1917 revolution. The House of Fabergé crafted the first in 1885 by request from Tsar Alexander III as an Easter gift for his wife.
  • While the egg is a predominant symbol of Easter, it's not limited to the Western interpretation. Egyptians decorate eggs during the Sham el-Nessim holiday, which marks the beginning of Spring. Mexicans stuff hollowed egg shells with confetti and hide them. When children find these cascarones, they break them over their friends' heads!
  • In the end, the best way to enjoy the Easter egg's long history is to eat it! So don't forget to save some room with your Easter ham!
Image Source: Getty
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