The Symbolism of Easter Eggs
Easter eggs are specially decorated eggs that are exchanged to celebrate the Easter holiday. They are pagan in origin and were originally used to celebrate the rebirth of the earth in Pagan celebrations of spring. The egg is widely used as the symbols of the start of a new life.
The practice of painting eggs is ancient. Persians painted them for their New Year and to celebrate the Spring Equinox. This holiday, called Nowrooz, is still celebrated today.
At the Jewish Passover Seer, a hard-boiled egg dipped in salt symbolizes a Passover Sacrifice offered at the Temple in Jerusalem.
The pre-Christian Anglo Saxons had a spring goddess called Eostre. Her feast day was the 21st of March. She was associated with eggs and Hares. She is also sometimes known as St. Brigid. A similar egg goddess in Germany was called Ostara. The fact that these goddesses are symbolized by rabbits is possibly why Easter is celebrated using bunnies today.
Nobody is sure quite when but the egg was also adopted by early Christians as a symbol of rebirth and as a symbol of the consciousness of Christ. This is how this tradition became part of Easter celebrations.
The egg is seen as symbolic of the grave and life renewed or resurrected by breaking out of it. The red supposedly symbolizes the blood of Christ redeeming the world and human redemption through the blood shed in the sacrifice of the crucifixion.
In the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches, Easter eggs are blessed by the priest at the end of the Paschal Vigil, and distributed to the faithful. Each household also brings an Easter basket to church, filled not only with Easter eggs but also with other Paschal foods such as paskha, kulich, or Easter breads, and these are blessed by the priest as well.
So why do we paint them? A pious legend, which means a story about a Bible character that is not exactly in the Bible, says that Mary Magdalene was bringing cooked eggs to share with other women at the tomb of Jesus and that the eggs miraculously turned a brilliant red at the moment that Jesus was resurrected from the cross.
In another version of this story Mary went to the Emperor of Rome and greeted him with “Christ has risen,” whereupon he pointed to an egg on his table and stated, “Christ has no more risen than that egg is red.” After declaring this it is said, the egg immediately turned blood red.
The most familiar and oldest tradition is to use dyed or painted chicken eggs to symbolize the rebirth of the Earth or Christ. However, in contemporary times, it is now customary to substitute chocolate eggs or plastic eggs filled with candies.
The Easter myth is that these eggs are hidden by a mythical creature known as the Easter Bunny for good children to find on Easter morning. Sometimes the eggs are hidden in nests made of tinsel, ribbons, or real straw in Easter egg baskets.