This is a very joyful time of the year. In North America, many children eagerly anticipate Easter because of the joy that Easter eggs and Easter egg hunts bring. There is also the tradition to beautifully decorate these eggs, making them a true work of art! What is the story behind this Easter egg tradition?
In order to understand the context, we have to remember that Easter is the holiest of Christian celebrations, which commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday after having died on the Cross on Good Friday.
Many Christians spend time at church in thought, prayer and celebration of Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection. During this time, family and friends also gather for a special meal, and children decorate and hunt Easter eggs.
For hundreds of years, Christians have united to Jesus’ suffering by giving up certain foods during Lent (the forty days preceding Easter). In the Middle Ages, these included meat, milk, and eggs, as attested by Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 147, a. 8). Thus, any eggs laid that week were saved and decorated to make them into Easter eggs. These eggs would then be later given to children as gifts.
There are many traditions pointing to the colouring of eggs. Mary Magdalene, one of the disciples of Jesus, was summoned by the Emperor Tiberius. She stated before him that Christ had been resurrected. The skeptical emperor pointed to an egg and exclaimed, “Christ has not risen, no more than that egg is red.” The egg in question miraculously turned blood-red.
In many countries, especially in Eastern Europe, families bring a basket full of decorated eggs to be blessed during the Easter Mass. Once the celebration is over, children open the egg as a symbol of the resurrection. The shell symbolizes the tomb where Jesus laid, and the egg inside is a symbol of Jesus, bringing new life to the world.
I hope the Resurrection of Christ fills your life with meaning, and wish you a Happy Easter!