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The surprising holiness of Easter eggs

Nino H. Photography | Getty Images

Caryn Rivadeneira - published on 04/07/17

Eggs are more deeply connected and important to the Easter season than many people realize.

It’s hard to imagine Easter without its colorful eggs. We love to boil them, dye them, hide them, hunt them, roll them, stuff them with candy and coins, break them, and eat them. But how much, really, do we know about why we do any of this? How does it help celebrate Easter, the highest and holiest of days?

Read more:
Delightful Easter cookies with orange glaze

Like the symbol of the Easter Bunny, most of us assume that the eggs—though fun—are steeped in pagan, not Christian, history. While some of that is true (ancient cultures have been dyeing eggs since long before Christ), the Easter egg as we know it today is deeply connected and important to this season in the Church.

As you might know, eggs are symbolic: a chick (new life!) emerging from a tomb-like egg beautifully represents the resurrection of Christ. Early Christians are said to have dyed eggs red as a nod to the crucifixion.

But another reason eggs have become a large part of our Easter traditions is the fact that they have long been an abundant food source. Eggs were once forbidden foods during Lent (which is why eggy pancakes and paczki are popular Fat Tuesday treats). But, of course, chickens don’t follow the liturgical calendar, so they kept on producing their eggs during Lent. Not wanting to waste food, farmers would hard boil the surplus eggs to keep them from spoiling. Thus, come Easter, many cultures would enjoy boiled-egg dishes and would dye and decorate the extra eggs.
Martin Child | Robertharding | Getty Images
Martin Child | Robertharding | Getty Images

Because of their importance as Easter food, the Church even has a special blessing for eggs: “Lord, let the grace of your blessing come upon these eggs, that they be healthful food for your faithful who eat them in thanksgiving for the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you forever and ever.”

As the significance of Easter eggs grew, each culture put its own “stamp” (sometimes literally) on Easter eggs, creating eggs ranging from the earthy to ornate, on tables in farmhouse to palaces (see: Fabergé’s Imperial Eggs).

Laski Diffusion | East News | Liaison
Laski Diffusion | East News | Liaison

But an especially delicious Easter egg was created in France and Germany in the early 1800s. Then in 1875, John Cadbury concocted a chocolate Easter egg made with dark chocolate and filled with sugared almonds and piped flowers. Early cream-filled eggs would follow 50 years later, but the Cadbury Cream Egg as we know it would take nearly a century.

And of course, it isn’t all chocolate these days. There are plastic eggs begging to be filled and hidden, chicken eggs eager to be boiled and decorated.

No matter how we like our eggs, they are beautiful and blessed reminders of the purpose of the season.

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