Coloring eggs for Easter is a fun, creative tradition, but have you ever wondered where it came from? Turns out there are several theories on how this tradition started. Here are five of them:
1. Spring Celebration
Eggs were often associated with pagan festivals and celebrations of spring. Because they are symbolic of rebirth and new life, it made them an appropriate part of the celebration of spring and the new life that comes after winter. Eggs were colored during these festivals and often given as gifts to friends and family. Since the symbolism of rebirth fit well with the spring holiday of Easter, the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, the practice of decorating eggs and giving them as gifts was adopted by Christians and included in their Easter celebrations.
2. A Mesopotamian Tradition
Per volume 5 of Donahoe's Magazine, a Catholic magazine that ran from 1878 to 1908, early Christians in Mesopotamia dyed eggs red to mimic the blood that Jesus shed during his crucifixion. The church apparently took up this tradition and it has continued ever since.
3. A Royal Tradition
King Edward of England may have popularized the tradition of decorating eggs for Easter. Way back in the 13thcentury, he ordered that 450 eggs be boiled and colored and decorated with gold leaf. He presented them as gifts to his royal household.
4. Mary Magdalene and the Red Egg
There are several legends that point to Mary Magdalene as a key player in the creation of the egg-dying tradition. One version speaks of her trip to Jesus’ tomb three days after his crucifixion. She carried a basket of cooked eggs to share with the other women that were mourning at the tomb. When she arrived and found the tomb empty, the eggs in her basket turned a brilliant shade of red. Another legend tells of her going to speak to the Emperor Tiberius after Jesus had risen from the dead. She greeted the Emperor with the words, “Christ is risen”. Tiberius replied, “Christ has no more risen than that egg is red”, gesturing to an egg sitting on the table. As soon as the words came out of his mouth - you guessed it - the egg turned red!
5. Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and the Red Egg
There are some Eastern European legends that claim it was Mary, the mother of Jesus, not Mary Magdalene, who was the source of the egg dying tradition. It is said that she had eggs with her when she was present for her son’s crucifixion on Good Friday. One story claims that blood from Jesus dripped on the eggs, turning them red. Another version of the legend tells of Mary weeping and begging the soldiers to be less cruel to her son. As her tears fell on the eggs, they became spotted with brilliant color.