Why Do We Celebrate Easter With Eggs?
Posted on: September 29th 2021
Our ancestors started the tradition of celebrating Easter with eggs, and we have carried it on through the centuries. In early spring, Christians celebrate the rebirth of Jesus Christ, while Jewish people observe Passover. During this season, the flowers are in full bloom, and animals give birth to their young. The Easter egg symbolism represents the rebirth and fertility that takes place in spring.
Families worldwide use eggs to celebrate Easter in different ways, such as Easter egg hunts, decorating, giving eggs as gifts, or taking part in games with eggs. You may have some favorite traditions with your loved ones to enjoy this springtime holiday. Explore the history of Easter eggs and how you can integrate them into your crafts, games, and decorations.
Where Did Easter Eggs Originate?
Easter eggs’ origin seems to date back to medieval Europe, whether it was the idea of early Christians or rooted in Anglo-Saxon traditions. Anglo-Saxons worshiped the goddess Eastre as they celebrated the spring equinox, which demonstrated nature’s rebirth after a cold, barren winter. They’d usually eat eggs at the festival and would even bury them in the ground to promote fertility among the people. For Christians, Easter eggs symbolized the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Christian missionaries to European countries sought to integrate their Holy Week traditions with these pagan festivals to encourage the locals to convert. They wanted to give these traditions with Easter eggs a new meaning that focused on their beliefs about the resurrection. We might also celebrate Easter with eggs because of the dietary restrictions during the Christian season of Lent. In modern times, church members are supposed to fast during Lent by abstaining from meat and focusing on Easter’s meaning.
In the early Christian church, fasting conditions during Lent were stricter. Church leaders encouraged Christians to avoid eating any animal byproducts, including eggs, in preparation for Easter. When chickens would lay eggs during this time, those who celebrated Lent would hard-boil them and store them until the 40-day period ended. After Lent was over, Christians would distribute their eggs to the community during Easter, especially to the poor who couldn’t afford meat to celebrate this holiday.
What Is the Symbolism of an Egg at Easter?
Easter is a springtime holiday that celebrates the beginning of blooming plants and the birth of baby animals. For Christians, it also represents the resurrection of Jesus Christ and his emergence from the tomb. Since eggs represent rebirth and fertility, the Easter egg meaning fits the theme surrounding this holiday.
Easter eggs, or resurrection eggs, have their roots in pagan traditions during the spring equinox. Over time, they’ve come to be part of the Christian holiday celebrating eternal life in Jesus Christ through his resurrection. Some of the practices that families perform worldwide point to religious themes. For example, egg-rolling contests symbolize the stone rolling away from Christ’s tomb.
The Tradition of Easter Eggs Around the World
As people worldwide celebrate the resurrection of Christ and the arrival of the exciting spring season, they integrate eggs into their traditions with the following practices.Egg Rolling
Egg-rolling contests have become a worldwide phenomenon, including here in the United States, and we can thank Scottish people for coming up with this idea. On Easter Sunday, Scottish families boil and paint their eggs, which they take to a local park and roll them down a hill. The winner is the one with the decorated egg that goes the farthest while remaining intact. Usually, kids play this game, but it’s also a popular activity for adults. Rolling the eggs down the hill is symbolic of the stone moving away from Christ’s tomb after his resurrection.
The annual egg-rolling contest became an official activity in the United States thanks to President Rutherford B. Hayes’ wife, First Lady Lucy Hayes. During this exciting event, children and their parents visit the White House lawn to roll their eggs on the Monday after Easter. Initially, this activity took place at the U.S. Capitol Building on Easter Monday in the early 1870s.
After some time, Congress expressed concern about the number of people on Capitol Hill and the damage they could do to the grounds. In 1876, President Ulysses S. Grant and Congress passed a law prohibiting egg rolling on Capitol Hill. A year later, a young boy asked President Hayes to conduct an egg-rolling contest on the White House lawn. The President and First Lady held the first annual event there in 1878, and it remains a tradition to this day.
People in Germany have incorporated egg dancing with their loved ones during Easter for centuries. The egg dance game involves placing lots of raw eggs all over the lawn or floor and having friends and family dance around them. The winner is the one who breaks the fewest number of eggs. Families can make this activity more challenging for older participants by blindfolding them.
Holy Week is the most sacred time in Greece, where citizens take part in various Easter traditions involving eggs. The Greeks created a game that consists of tapping Easter eggs together with the people around the dinner table. The winner of this activity gets good luck for a year.
During their extensive family gatherings on Easter Sunday, Greeks will dye hard-boiled eggs and pass them around the table. Each person taps their egg’s pointed part against the egg next to them until one of them breaks. Whoever is the last person with their egg still intact after going around the whole table is the winner. After the game is over, they’ll eat their hard-boiled eggs.
This tradition started in Greece, and it has become famous around the world. In England, egg jarping involves having two pointed ends of their eggs collide to determine which hard-boiled egg is the hardest. The same practice is prevalent in Latvia, where they tend to make potato salad including the leftover hard-boiled eggs the next day.
Egg Roof Tile Rolling
Besides rolling eggs down a hill or on a lawn, families in Sweden slide their eggs down roof tiles. Friends, family members, and neighbors give eggs as gifts to children. The kids use these eggs to roll down roof tiles at an angle on the floor. The point of the game is to be the player whose egg goes the farthest. If an opponent’s egg hits yours, you get to keep it.
Giant Chocolate Egg
Argentina holds an annual celebration where they unveil a giant chocolate egg on Easter Sunday. This hollow chocolate egg features thousands of pounds of chocolate, and it serves as a spectacle for locals and tourists. After it gets cracked open, thousands of people gather around the egg to get a piece of chocolate.
On Easter Sunday, people in Argentina exchange eggs and eat a dessert with chocolate eggs on top of it. Many families in Argentina have a feast with grilled meats, including lamb. After dinner, children will look around for the giant chocolate egg that their parents hid for them somewhere in the house. Whoever finds it breaks it into pieces and shares it among the family.
People in Mexico and parts of the southern United States celebrate Easter by filling hollow eggs with confetti and breaking them over someone’s head to bring them good luck. When families go to the park on Easter Sunday, the children hide their confetti-filled eggs and look for an unsuspecting friend or family member to play their “victim.” Some parents may also hide the eggs around the house or lawn and break the eggs over their children’s heads when they find them.
This Easter tradition came to Mexico through the Spaniards after Marco Polo brought it to Europe. During his expedition in China, he became familiar with the custom of filling hollow eggs with perfumed powder. The Italian Renaissance also featured this practice that involved men tossing hollow eggs with fragrant powder at the women they were courting.
Decorating Easter eggs has been a popular tradition around the world since the 13th century. Various cultural groups worldwide paint or adorn their Easter eggs in the following ways.
- Painting their eggs red: Orthodox Christians dye their Easter eggs red to symbolize the blood Jesus shed on the cross. Greeks also used to color Easter eggs red and put them throughout their houses to ward off evil spirits.
- Using wax for creative designs: People in Ukraine, Poland, Russia and other Eastern European countries use the wax-resistant batik method to decorate their Easter eggs. They make designs on their eggs using hot beeswax and a stylus before dipping the eggs into the dye. The waxed parts resist the dye and maintain a unique pattern.
- Decorating eggs with onion skins and vinegar: Today, we use Easter egg dyeing kits to color our eggs. However, the traditional method for coloring Easter eggs is using onion peels and vinegar. After boiling the onion skins in water and vinegar and adding the eggs to the concoction, the eggs take on a reddish-brown color.
- Painting horseshoes on eggs: People in Hungary paint horseshoes on their eggs as a symbol of good luck.
- Copper wire on eggs: People in the Czech Republic use copper wire to decorate their hard-boiled or plastic eggs.
- Decorating beaded eggs: Romanians place beads on their Easter eggs in a traditional pattern to decorate them. These eggs often get blessed at church.
Using Eggs as Decorations
Worldwide, people who celebrate Easter have found ways to use colorful eggs in their festive decor. In Germany, families decorate the traditional Easter tree or bush with eggs that look like fruits. This tradition symbolizes the end of winter and the beginning of spring. In other countries, families may use a smaller version of the Easter tree as their centerpieces and decorate them with candy. They may also put out a decorative bowl of Easter eggs as a centerpiece for the dining room table.
Like American kids do when they trick-or-treat for Halloween, children in other countries collect eggs from neighbors to celebrate Easter. On Easter Saturday, kids in Sweden, Finland, and Bosnia and Herzegovina dress up as good witches, give cards to their neighbors, and wish them a happy Easter. Their neighbors will gift them with candy and eggs in return for their cards. Kids will also exchange decorated eggs with their friends and family members and play an egg-tapping game to celebrate the end of the day.
Giving Eggs as Gifts
Besides the traditional Easter basket, families worldwide give eggs as gifts to their loved ones during Easter. In Poland, families give blessing baskets filled with food and colored eggs to a priest. The priest’s blessing marks the end of Lent. Orthodox church leaders will also bless Easter eggs and hand them out to the congregation. Sometimes, churchgoers will bring their blessed eggs to the cemetery to place on their deceased loved ones’ graves.
People give their loved ones egg-shaped gifts along with traditional or decorated eggs. Fabergé eggs were ornate Easter gifts that Russian czars would give to their wives. These detailed works of art typically had a surprise inside. In Italy, families give hollowed-out chocolate eggs filled with jewelry and other valuable items.
The History of the Easter Egg Hunt
The egg hunt became an Easter tradition in 16th-century Germany. Martin Luther held egg hunts at the church for his congregation, where the women and children would look for eggs that the men hid around the property. This practice is symbolic of the women who discovered that the tomb was empty after the resurrection. According to German Lutheran tradition, the Easter Bunny — or the Easter Hare — would bring a basket of brightly colored eggs as a gift for all the good children, hiding them around the house and lawn for them to find.
This Easter tradition became popular in England during the 19th century thanks to the future Queen Victoria, whose mother would hide Easter eggs throughout Kensington Palace. When she became an adult, Victoria and her husband Albert carried on the tradition by hiding eggs for their children on Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter. The eggs had initially been hard-boiled and decorated, but artificial eggs eventually became popular in London in the 1850s. Chocolate eggs also gained popularity in France and Germany in the early 19th century.
As family life became more of a priority throughout Europe, the middle class had more disposable income. The Easter egg hunt tradition then became more about family and children than it did about religious practices. Confectionery companies also used this practice to promote their sugary products. Today, families fill plastic eggs with candy or money and hide them around their house or backyard for their children to find.
Easy Ways You Can Incorporate Eggs Into Your Easter Celebration
Even though Easter egg traditions are famous among children, you can find creative ways to get the whole family involved in celebrating this springtime holiday this year. Consider integrating the following egg-centered traditions into your festivities.
Easter Eggs Arts and Crafts
Easter egg dyeing is a fun activity that the whole family can enjoy before or during Easter. The simplest way for kids to dye an Easter egg is to dip a hard-boiled egg into a cup of colored water. Adults can get in on the fun by putting their creativity and attention to detail to the test.
While kids have fun getting colors on their fingers, the adults can set up an art station with glitter, paint, and brushes. The whole family could take part in a friendly competition to see who creates the best-looking egg.
Besides decorating hard-boiled eggs, you could also make cardboard Easter eggs with your loved ones. Hard-boiled eggs can be excellent temporary Easter decorations. Cardboard Easter eggs provide a more permanent alternative to create lasting memories that you can enjoy for years. You only need an egg carton, paint, paintbrushes, glue, and scissors to get started. Paint the inside of your egg cartons however you want, and wait for them to dry before you arrange them on the windowsill or in an Easter basket.
Bring this world-famous tradition into your home during this Easter season. Egg tapping is an activity that’ll get the adults and children in your family involved. For this game, give everyone a hard-boiled egg. You may want to paint them first, but you could play the game with plain eggs. Go around a table or circle and crack the top of your neighbor’s egg.
The winner of the game is the one who has managed to keep their egg intact. Consider making this activity even more fun by having prizes, such as a bottle of wine for adults or candy for kids, to give to the winner.
Family Easter Egg Hunt
Kids enjoy finding decorated eggs filled with candy or money during an Easter egg hunt. The fun can continue when your little ones become adults. After the children have collected their prizes and opened their eggs, you can invite the more mature people in your family for an adult Easter egg hunt.
When filling your eggs with adult prizes, make sure these eggs are out of reach of children. You may also want to wait until the kids have collected all their eggs before hiding the adult ones. Instead of filling your plastic Easter eggs with candy, you can fill them with miniature bottles of alcohol, samples of beauty products, or lottery tickets. Consider splitting the cost by having all the participants pitch in for the lottery tickets. The winner of a big lottery ticket may even share their winnings with the whole family.
Bring the festivities outdoors by hosting a fun egg toss with your loved ones. Every participant needs a partner to play the game. The team members stand across from each other and toss a raw egg back and forth. After each successful toss, the person who catches the egg takes a step backward. Players are out of the game when they drop their eggs or let them crack on the ground. The winning team is the last one with a whole egg.
Another fun outdoor activity you could play with your family during Easter involves throwing eggs at a target. Make a wooden or plastic target and throw raw eggs at it instead of darts. It’s helpful to use plastic surfaces because they’re easier to clean if you want to play this game again next year. Even though egg darts could get messy, it’ll be easy for you to see where the egg hit the target. Like the egg toss, you can provide fun prizes for adults and children.
Find Sauder’s Eggs in a Store Near You to Carry Out Your Easter Traditions
The origins of Easter eggs go back for centuries, and they have their roots in Christian and Anglo-Saxon traditions. Hard-boiled, chocolate, and plastic eggs continue to enthrall kids and adults when the flowers first start to bloom and the weather becomes more pleasant. Make these treats part of your Easter celebration to bring the whole family together and create lasting memories over decorations, games, and prizes.
Sauder’s Eggs provides healthy, farm-fresh eggs to help you keep your Easter celebrations alive. As a family-owned company, we prioritize quality and tradition. Use our store locator to find a distributor near you and make your Easter egg dyeing, tossing, or hunting a success this year.