As we were busy dying all sorts of beautiful Easter eggs last night, Sabrina looked up with a puzzled look on her face.
“Maman,” she asked, “what do eggs have to do with Easter?”
Oh how I love when my little one’s curiosity sends me on a quest for new information!
“I know that for a lot of Christians it has become a symbol of the resurrection,” I replied, “but honestly, I’m not sure why? What do you say we find out together?”
The sparkle in her smiling eyes was the only answer I needed.
So we did a little digging around and here are some interesting facts we discovered.
The coming of spring and the new life it brings has been celebrated in a variety of ways all across the globe since long before the time of Christ. Spring is a time of renewal and a time of new hope, as Christ brings the promise of new life through his resurrection from the dead.
The word Easter has it’s origin in “the Norsemen’s Eostur, Eastar, Ostara, and Ostar, and the pagan goddess Eostre, all of which involve the season of the growing sun and new birth”. [Easter Egg History]
The Roman proverb “Omne vivum ex ovo” , All life comes from an egg, is a belief that was held by many ancient cultures, such as the Egyptians, Hindu and Persians.
Now I have to admit, as a Christian who celebrates the resurrection of Christ at Eater, I wasn’t too thrilled to learn about these pagan origins. But many Christian traditions have their origin in pagan rituals so I continued digging a little more to discover if and how the egg became a Christian symbol of the resurrection.
As it turns our early Christians adopted the egg as a symbol of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. The egg, which has no beginning or end became a symbol of eternity. The egg shell became a symbol of the tomb from which Christ arose. For three days the tomb protected Christ as the egg shell protects a growing chick. As the chick emerges from the shell so too did Christ emerge from the tomb into new life.
Interestingly the French word for Easter is “Pâques” which has it’s origin in the Latin word “Pascua” which means Food. The egg itself was a welcome treat at the end of a long season of fasting. The Latin word “Pascua” is itself derived from the Hebrew word “Pessea” which means “passing away” or “passage”. This refers to the time of the Jewish passover which is also the time of the passion of Christ and the passing from death to eternal life.
In France where I grew up, the tradition is to color empty eggs, often filled with confetti. The empty egg becomes the symbol of the empty tomb.
“The best egg is an empty egg… hatched out… purpose fulfilled…a new life begun. The best tomb is an empty tomb. The Lord whom you seek is no longer here, for He is risen just as He said! said the angel.” [The Easter Egg…A Christian Symbol?]
I found two different stories regarding the origin of coloring the eggs. The first traces the art of decorating eggs to a North African tribe of early Christians.
The second is an old Polish legend, which claims that on the first Good Friday, a man was carrying a basket of eggs to sell at the market. Along the way he stopped to assist Christ in carrying the cross. He put down his basket of eggs and when he returned,] he found them mysteriously decorated in beautiful colors and patterns. Throughout the world eggs are decorated in a variety of beautiful ways, some with intricate patterns made of grasses or carefully etched by hand. In the US kids of all ages dip hard boiled eggs into vibrant colors.
Many of the games that are played by children everywhere today also represent Christ’s passion and resurrection:
The egg hunt reminds us of Christ’s disciples searching for him when they found the empty tomb. And egg rolling competitions are symbolic of the rolling away of the stone at the entrance of Christ’s tomb.
Here is a beautiful blessing for your Easter eggs which came to us from Pope Paul V.
“Bless, O Lord, we beseech you, these Your creatures of eggs, that they may become a wholesome sustenance to Your faithful servants, eating in thankfulness to You, on account of the Resurrection of Our Lord.”
Have a blessed Easter!