How did the egg become linked to Easter, Christianity?

Decorating eggs for Easter has a long history.
Decorating eggs for Easter has a long history. File photo

There’s been an Easter kerfuffle on the other side of the pond after Cadbury’s annual Easter Egg Trail was renamed the Great British Egg Hunt.

Twitter erupted in outrage, Cadbury assured its customers that “Easter” was still printed on its actual chocolate eggs, and British Prime Minister Theresa May even waded into the fray.

“I don’t know what they’re thinking about, frankly,” May said in an interview with ITV News. “Easter is very important. It’s important to me. It’s a very important festival for the Christian faith for millions across the world.”

But what’s so Christian about an Easter egg anyway? Eggs have histories in many cultures as symbols of fertility and rebirth, but here are a few ways they’ve been linked to Easter and the Christian faith.

▪ As early as the fifth century, many Christians abstained from eating not only meat during Lent but also dairy products and eggs, according to a 2010 article in Christianity Today. In the days leading up to Easter, eggs were preserved by hard-boiling – and would often be the first thing a person ate to break the Lenten fast on Easter Sunday.

▪ There are many legends about dyeing eggs, including one where either Mary Magdalene or Mary, the mother of Jesus, places a basket of eggs below the cross, Jesus’ blood turning them red. Today, some Orthodox churches still dye Easter eggs red to represent the blood of Christ.

▪ An 1879 edition of The Reformed Church Publication Board’s magazine The Guardian compares an Easter egg to Jesus’ tomb. An egg looks dead but has life inside, “and also it is like Christ’s dead body, which was raised to life again,” the article says. “This is the reason we use eggs on Easter.”

▪ Cadbury, too, recognizes a connection, pointing out on its website that some Christians regard the egg as symbolic of the stone being rolled away from the front of Jesus’ tomb. Some have connected this symbol to the tradition of egg rolling, when children play a game by rolling eggs down hills – or across the White House lawn.

Katherine Burgess: 316-268-6400, @KathsBurgess

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