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Easter Egg Traditions

Updated on February 28, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

Whether Christian or non-Christian, most people color Easter eggs around Easter time.  Although different cultures have vastly different traditions concerning decorated eggs, most of these evolved from the same ancient roots, beliefs, and traditions.

Since the beginning of time spring was a time of new life and eggs symbolized that new life in a real way.  Eggs have so long been a part of the traditional celebrations of spring that there is no record of when the tradition actually began.  Romans, Greeks, and Jews all used eggs in the springtime religious ceremonies and rituals. 

In Medieval Europe eggs were given as gifts to the servants.  There is a story that in 1307 King Edward I had over 400 eggs dyed and covered with gold leaf and then presented them to the servants in his household.

Ukrainian Easter Eggs

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Tools used to put the wax on the eggs.  image:WikimediaPysanka, Image:wikimediaimage:morguefileimage:sxcimage:morguefileEgg about to go into the last dye bath. Image:wikimediaimage:sxcimage:sxcimage:sxcimage:sxcimage:sxcimage:wikipedia
Tools used to put the wax on the eggs.  image:Wikimedia
Tools used to put the wax on the eggs. image:Wikimedia
Pysanka, Image:wikimedia
Pysanka, Image:wikimedia
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image:morguefile
Egg about to go into the last dye bath. Image:wikimedia
Egg about to go into the last dye bath. Image:wikimedia
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image:sxc
image:sxc
image:sxc
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image:sxc
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image:wikipedia
image:wikipedia

Symbolic Egg Colors and Decorations

As the tradition of using eggs in religious celebrations spread, different cultures developed different colors and ways of decorating them. 

In Greece the eggs are dyed crimson red to represent the blood of Christ.  On Easter the red eggs are bumped together.

“He has risen”

“He has risen, indeed!”

The person who is left with an egg that is not cracked at the end of the day is will have good luck all year long.   The breaking of the eggs represents Christ breaking forth from the tomb on Easter morning.

In Hungary and parts of Germany there is a tradition of dyed green eggs for Maundy Thursday.  By carrying this green egg one will be sure to have luck for the whole year.

Christians began using eggs in Easter traditions for several reasons.  As cultures turned to Christianity they were unwilling to give up many of their celebrations and traditions and so transformed these to Christian celebrations.  Decorating eggs for Easter may also have been partly because Christians gave up eggs for Lent.  By Easter there were many eggs to deal with and using them as part of the tradition and decorations just made sense.

Pysanky or Ukrainian Easter Eggs

Ukrainian Easier eggs, also called Pysanky (or Pysanki), are beautifully and intricately designed decorated eggs. The artisans begin with clean white eggs and use beeswax to create a design. The egg is then dyed in the lightest dye to be used. Next more beeswax is applied in a design and the egg is dipped in the next color. In this way the beeswax always protects the design underneath it. When the final and darkest color is applied, the egg is allowed to dry and then the beeswax is melted off and the egg is rubbed until it shines. The complex pattern is obvious at last. Generally the inside of the egg is left intact. After many years the yolk and white will have dried up. Sometimes the insides are blown out but this makes it more difficult to dye the egg.

Although each egg is different from the next common symbols are used. Some of these symbols are:

Sun- Good fortune

Chicken or rooster- Wishes fulfilled

Deer- Good health

Flowers-Love

How to Make Ukrainian Easter Eggs

Modern Celebrations

In recent years in the Southwestern United States and Mexico a tradition of filling blown out eggs with confetti has begun.  On Easter the children crack the eggs often on each other) and the confetti goes everywhere in a swirl of color.

Whether you use a homemade food coloring for dye or make the intricate, jewel-like Pysanky, coloring Easter eggs is a fun part of the Easter celebration.

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    • adorababy profile image

      adorababy 

      8 years ago from Syracuse, NY

      It never really crossed my mind that easter eggs could have so much deeper meaning. We have been celebrating Easter Sunday for as long as I can remember and I never thought behind the symbolism of the colored eggs.

    • Joy At Home profile image

      Joilene Rasmussen 

      9 years ago from United States

      Fascinating! I've wanted to learn to dye eggs the Ukrainian way for years (along with 100 other hobbies), so the resources in this hub made my day. Thank you.

    • C.S.Alexis profile image

      C.S.Alexis 

      9 years ago from NW Indiana

      Guess I never gave much thought to decorating eggs. They are very detailed in design. Nice to learn about the different traditions.

      I have a friend who boils her eggs with a bunch of onion skins that she saves for her Easter Eggs. The onion skins make natural patterns of brownish tint to the hard boiled eggs. They look nice and I am assuming it is some sort of family tradition, maybe of Polish decent. Thumbs Up for this write!

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