A widespread symbol of new life and rebirth, eggs are historically associated with the holiday of Easter. Despite the popularity of this internationally celebrated holiday, and the widespread use of eggs during this period, the origin of Easter Eggs is generally quite contested, with various theories on why so many cultures and countries celebrate Easter with eggs and egg symbols.
In the Northern hemisphere, Easter takes place at the beginning of Spring, a period wherein flowers start to bloom and animals give birth. For many centuries, Eggs have been seen as symbols of fertility, rebirth and new life. This makes them a natural link for the Christian celebration of Easter, a holiday that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For many Christians, Easter Eggs are seen as a representation of Jesus’ resurrection and emergence from the tomb.
Other theories make a link between seasonal availability and the use of eggs. Allegedly, the popularity of eggs was commonly tied to the spring period because prior to the advent of industrial farming, hens laid few eggs over the winter period, and therefore Spring heralded the return of eggs in abundance.
Another potential reason for the use of eggs during Easter and during early Spring has been ascribed to the Christian practice of lent. Historically, many Christians would abstain from eating items such as eggs and meat during the period of lent – the period preceding Easter- and Easter would therefore represent the first opportunity to enjoy eggs after this period of abstinence.
Some experts suggest that the Easter egg finds its roots in pagan traditions and practices, with the egg serving as a symbol of new life within pagan traditions that celebrated the coming of Spring.
The tradition of hard boiling and decorating chicken eggs for Easter is also suggested to have come from Christian practices. Many Christian communities dyed eggshells red, with the red colour representing the blood of Jesus Christ that was spilled on the cross. This remains a popular tradition in some Catholic churches today. The very practice of decorating eggshells has been suggested to precede these traditions, with archaeologists finding evidence of humans engraving and decorating Ostrich eggs in Africa which predate these practices.