“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”
-2 Corinthians 5:17
Eggs: Symbols of New Life
Eggs have been a part of Spring rituals since before recorded history. After the long winter, chickens and other birds start to lay eggs again, each egg bursting with new life, mirroring the entire season of Spring. Ancient people, like the Hutsuls of Ukraine, decorated eggs and gave them as gifts to special people in their lives. So, the symbolism of eggs does predate Christianity.
Early Christians, recognizing the power of the egg as a symbol for new life, connected eggs to the new life found in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ at Easter. Eggs are a perfect Easter symbol, and a symbol of new life in Christ. Consider the following famous verse by St. Paul, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Furthermore, the egg is an illustration the Resurrection itself – a chick emerging from its shell represents Jesus emerging from his tomb on Easter.
An Easter ‘basket’ is a convenient way to carry eggs or treats, but even the grass around the nestled Easter eggs reminds us of new life. In the words of this well-loved Easter hymn: “Now the green blade rises from the buried grain. Wheat that in the dark earth many days has lain. Love lives again, that with the dead has been. Love is come again like wheat that springs up green.”
The End of Lent
Eggs also remind Christians of the end of the Lenten fast, and the joyful conclusion of that discipline on Easter. Again looking to historical practices: eggs and milk – in addition to meat – were not eaten during Lent. So indeed, eggs on Easter – real or chocolate(!) – are symbols of Lent turning to Easter. Christians rejoice in the abundance of God’s love – no longer fasting, we are full of joy.
Mary Magdalene and the Red Egg
An early Christian egg story circulated about Mary Magdalene. In John’s gospel, Mary is the first witness of Jesus’ resurrection, and according to tradition she spent the rest of her life proclaiming the good news of Christ. As the story goes, Mary Magdalene even addressed the Roman Emperor Tiberias. Holding an egg in her hand she declared, “Christ is risen!” The emperor laughed, remarking that Christ had as much chance of rising from the dead as that egg had of turning red. Immediately, the egg in Mary’s hand turned bright red.
During the Middle Ages children used to go house to house on Easter, singing and begging for eggs. They were paid in hard-boiled eggs, dyed with vegetables such as beetroot (red), spinach (green), onions (yellow) and tea (brown). The eggs were called pace eggs, the word coming from the French Paque, which means Easter. Today Christians still color and decorate eggs. As you prepare for this tradition, consider decorating your eggs with religious designs: such as a cross, the rising sun, water, a candle, etc.
Charlotte Hand Greeson shares her passion for formation as a manager, editor, and writer for Building Faith. She currently lives in California.
Special thanks to Sharon Ely Pearson for the “decorating eggs” section of this article.