The egg is one of the most popular images of the Easter holiday. The Easter Bunny hides colored eggs for children to find. Families dye eggs for Easter eating. Folks greet one another at Easter with gifts of fancy decorated eggs and egg-shaped jelly beans or chocolates. Is this simply festive fun, or do Easter eggs carry more meaning?
Consider these possible explanations for the egg’s importance at Easter.
For Christians, Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This movable feast, occurring on the first Sunday after the first full moon past the spring equinox , is also widely regarded as a sure sign of spring (even though spring officially arrives with that equinox). These two promising phenomena are linked in the appearance of eggs at Easter, rolling in several symbolic ideas.
1. The egg is a traditional symbol of rebirth.
Eggs bring new creatures. That’s simple biology. Easter eggs clearly represent the arrival of baby chicks, ducks, and other new lives that appear plentifully in the spring. This tradition may even be tied to pagan customs celebrating fertility and nature.
For centuries, many have linked eggs symbolically to immortality. That’s another association with the Lord’s resurrection, celebrated at Easter.
2. Historically, many Christians have forgone eggs during the Lenten season.
Christians of various sects make personal sacrifices (or fasts) during the time of Lent, which leads up to Easter Sunday. Traditionally, eggs have been a subject of such withholding. On Resurrection Sunday, the high holy day, they break their fasts with celebratory feasts. These often include brightly colored eggs, marking the end of their abstinence from this favorite food. In some countries, Christians carry baskets of eggs to church on Holy Saturday to be blessed for consumption on Easter.
3. The egg is part of the Jewish Passover Seder.
A simple hard-boiled egg is placed on the food plate early in the traditional Passover Seder meal. The egg, which marks the beginning of life, stands for the Jewish people before the Exodus. They were enslaved in Egypt, waiting for deliverance, much like the unborn chicken is contained within the eggshell. The Passover celebrates this deliverance. The egg also represents the people’s mourning over the temple’s destruction, as eggs were traditionally eating during funereal banquets.
The Last Supper of Christ, shared with His 12 apostles on the night He was betrayed and arrested, was a Passover Seder.
4. An Easter egg offers a visual symbol of Christ’s empty tomb.
Several European Easter traditions include the pouring of egg contents without breaking the shells, so that they may be decorated. The empty shells then represent the empty tomb of the crucified and risen Lord (see John 20). The grave could not hold the risen Savior, so His tomb was left vacant. The stone was removed, and He came forth, even as a bird steps from the shell.
5. Eggs have long been seen as a sign of good fortune.
Throughout history and around the world, the egg has been regarded as a motif for health, wealth, and good luck.
The Easter egg hunt is a perennial favorite activity for children and adults. This festive pursuit may be traced deep into history. The hunter finding the most secret eggs is the clear winner. Biblically, this may correspond to finding the “pearl of great price” (see Matthew 13:45-46), which represents the kingdom of Heaven, the ultimate reward made accessible to man through the death and resurrection of the Savior Jesus Christ.
These Easter egg symbolisms are not tough eggs to crack, but they can add abundant meaning to the celebrations of Resurrection Sunday each spring.