Easter 2024: The Real Reason Behind Why We Have Eggs at Easter

Easter 2024: The Real Reason Behind Why We Have Eggs at Easter

Easter eggs symbolise the rise of Christ from the dead

Maithili ChakravarthyUpdated: Saturday, March 30, 2024, 11:27 PM IST
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We’ve always associated Easter with eggs. But what is their significance in relation to the festival? What is the symbolism behind eggs for Easter? Eggs represent new life, representing in turn Jesus’s resurrection after he was crucified. They represent a miracle of sorts. Jesus rose from a tomb, and eggs became a metaphor for this event, with life peaking out from inside the egg shell. Additionally eggs are a symbol of fertility and restoration, and hence significant during Easter. During Lent, the period preceding Easter, eating eggs is forbidden, so eating an egg on Easter is like a treat. People enjoy eggs during Easter, after having strictly abstained from them during the 40 days of the Lenten period. The eggs are often hidden for children to find on Easter morning, which are perhaps left by an Easter bunny. They are put in a basket filled with real of fake straw to resemble a bird’s nest.

The custom of eggs and Easter can be traced back to the early Christians of Mesopotamia, from where it spread to Eastern Europe and Siberia through the Orthodox Churches, and later into Europe through the Catholic and Protestant churches.

Dyeing and decorating easter eggs

There is also the tradition of decorating Easter eggs every year and this tradition dates back to the 13th century. The tradition of decorating eggs has been practiced by both Eastern Orthodox and Western churches since the Middle Ages. Holy Week precedes Easter, and it is not allowed to eat eggs during this time, but chickens continue to lay eggs. These Holy Week eggs are then dyed and decorated. The dyeing of eggs is an age-old tradition too, still prevalent in Eastern and Central Europe. In some traditions eggs are painted red, or stained red, symbolizing Jesus Christ’s blood on the cross. Another way in which eggs are dyed is by boiling them in natural substances, for e.g. onion peel for brown colour, oak or alder bark or walnut nutshell for black colour, and beet juice for pink colour. In England, eggs are wrapped in onion skins and boiled to make their shells look like blotchy gold. Sometimes even artificial colours are used to dye eggs. Patterning is also an age-old tradition, and eggs are wrapped in flowers and leaves in order to create patterns on them. Such are the different customs associated with the decoration of eggs. Different countries have their own Easter Egg decoration and colouring customs.

Eggs as Confections

In today’s traditions, eggs are made of chocolate and bought and sold every year. They are enjoyed in homes like a chocolate. Pastry shops and home chefs wrap these confectionary eggs in coloured foil, selling different varieties of them, whether that be rum and raisin, cherry brandy, mocha, orange, lemon, white and dark chocolate, coconut or other varieties. Other kinds of eggs in modern traditions include hand-carved wooden eggs, and plastic eggs filled with confections like chocolates.

Families consume eggs together during Easter

Easter is family time mainly. Shares Nicolas Picardo of Uncle Nicky’s Easter Delites which makes thousands of chocolate eggs every year, “It’s a time when families come together. I make almost 30 varieties of Easter eggs every year. Our eggs are soft centre eggs, and that’s why they are famous. The whole thing is chocolate. It’s very difficult to explain what eggs mean during Easter. I’m in my 70s and these eggs are a source of income for me. Kids and adults enjoy them equally.”

Fitness expert Joel Saldanha also agrees that Easter is more about family. He celebrates every year with a nice family lunch, followed by the consumption of confectionary eggs. “Before Easter is a time of mourning, especially Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, when Jesus was sentenced to death and thereafter crucified. Easter is a culmination of the week. We consume our eggs during Easter. I like marzipan eggs. We also get chocolate eggs home. We eat these eggs like a dessert.”

Eggs are often ordered in from home chefs. Other than Picardo there are others who have made a business of supplying chocolate Easter eggs. Elaine Pinto, a home chef makes nearly 800 eggs every year. She tells us what Easter eggs mean to her. “To me Easter eggs symbolize resurrection, new life and rebirth. My eggs are really popular, and I make about 11 flavours. During the 40 days of Lent, which is a time of penance, people forego what they like. For example some may forgo drinking, some sweets. And hence when Lent culminates into Easter, a big celebration is in order. It’s a feast usually for lunch and dinner, and during the day Christians also eat their eggs. These days dark chocolate eggs have become very popular, especially among senior citizens. Primarily due to health reasons.”

Hence we see that without eggs, Easter celebrations are incomplete. The symbolism is strong. The eggs are often blessed by priests and distributed to congregants at churches at the end of Paschal Vigil, which is the Saturday before Easter, also know as Holy Saturday. Christians have devised different traditions surrounding eggs every Easter.

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