Coloring and hunting for hard-boiled eggs (or plastic and candy-filled) has become an integral part of the Easter celebration. But how did this come to be? What’s up with the eggs and how do they relate to the Resurrection of the Savior?
For early Christians, the Easter egg was symbolic of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The hard shell represented the sealed tomb of Christ, and cracking the shell represented the finding of the tomb empty. Another tradition claims that St. Mary Magdalene was carrying a basket of eggs when she met the risen Christ. Upon her recognition of the Savior, legend has it, her basket of eggs burst forth into beautiful colors. During the middle ages, Christians would abstain from eating eggs for the entirety of Lent. Eggs were decorated in commemoration of these traditions, blessed by the priest, and offered to one another as tasty gifts on Easter Sunday.
Painting eggs to celebrate the Spring Equinox certainly pre-dates Christianity. To this day, many non-Christian cultures around the world continue to view the egg as a symbol of new life, fertility and rebirth. Because of this pre-Christian connection, some claim that the Easter egg is purely a disguised pagan tradition. However, history is always bit more nuanced then what is presented in the often sensationalized, hour-long specials on television. The majority of scholars have noted that there is little to no historical evidence for this type of Christian co-opting. Along with water, the sun, bread and wine, the egg is simply one of the many symbols that human intuition understandably lifts-up to the divine. We are meaning-making beings, and the universality of such sacred signs can be a unifying acknowledgment. A blessed Spring to all!
Chaplain Tyler Whatley
Director of Spiritual Care,
Divine Savior Healthcare, Portage Wisconsin.