Easter Eggs

miniature crochet
© F H Powell 2010

The egg has been used to represent many things over time and was a religious symbol for pagans and thus pre-dated Christianity. Ancient Persians are known to have used eggs in their New Year celebrations over 2,500 years ago. For pagan religions the egg represented, through it’s hatching of new life, the rebirth of the earth after the cold winter months. Roman and Egyptian societies revered the egg and decorated and gave them as gifts. Eventually the Christian adopted the egg as a symbol of the rebirth but not of the earth but of man. Originally the eggs were hens eggs that were used for decoration. One line of thought is that Mary, attending the crucifixion of Christ, took eggs as gifts for the Roman soldiers to try to lessen the suffering of Christ and her tears fell on to the eggs and caused colourful spots to form.

The decorating of eggs for Easter in the UK dates back to medieval times. Records from 1290 show monies being spent by the King on eggs for decoration as Easter gifts. By the early 1800’s chocolate Easter eggs were beginning to appear in France and Germany, a craze that soon swept the rest of Europe. Originally solid the eggs were made from a thick paste, a product of roasted and ground Cacao beans. Hollow eggs followed in the early 19th century with the advent of new chocolate recipes and industrial manufacturing methods.

Over the years many Easter traditions have grown up which involve eggs. The Easter egg hunt where eggs are hidden either indoors or outside is a game for children. The eggs are either made of chocolate or contain chocolate and the finders get to keep the eggs. To make things a little more fair a twist on the rules is that the finder of the most, or sometimes the largest egg, is the winner and takes the prize.

Egg tapping is another traditional Easter game. The basic idea is to tap your own hard-boiled egg against that of an opponent and hopefully break their egg before your own. Egg rolling is another traditional Easter game where eggs are rolled down a hillside; it may have some association with the rolling away of the rock from Christ’s tomb.

A German tradition is the decorated Easter tree. Trees were traditionally branches in a vase hung with brightly coloured eggs. This tradition is now a firm favourite in the US, being taken over by European settlers.