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Opinion

Easter eggs represent Christian metaphor

Cristin Dempsey

April 18, 2014

Spring is finally here (maybe), and Easter is already this weekend. As college students eat their weight in chocolate eggs and bunnies, hide baskets and eggs and catch up with family over a big dinner, where all these Easter symbols come from is surely the least of their worries.

I am particularly curious about Easter eggs. How could a three-dimensional oval shape have any relevance to Easter? And how did this tradition begin? Actually, although known by many as secular, this and other symbols have represented the Easter holiday for centuries and have added to the joy of the Easter holiday by getting people of all ages involved.

Surprisingly, Easter eggs, also known as Paschal eggs, actually do represent Christianity. They represent the idea of fertility and rebirth. Originally, they were meant to resemble the empty tomb of Jesus as he rose from the dead. The hardness of the egg closely resembles the stone of the tomb, and the bird that hatches from it resembles Jesus setting himself free to go to God and have eternal life. It also shows how all Christian believers will also have eternal life.

Most Easter eggs (real eggs, anyway) are dyed or painted and decorated in order to resemble Easter and springtime in general. The earliest Easter eggs were simply just chicken eggs, but since their popularity took off, chocolate eggs and plastic eggs filled with candy, toys or decorations have emerged. The baskets these eggs are hidden in, typically filled with straw, represent the bird’s nest. These eggs serve as a substitute so that everyone, regardless of age, can participate in Easter celebrations. They also bring color to the holiday that reflects the brightness of spring.

The actual decorating of eggshells is a practice that goes back thousands of years. During ancient and pre-Christian times dating back to 60,000 years ago, Africans decorated ostrich eggs (mainly with gold and silver) to put in the graves of Egyptians and Sumerians. However, these were not Easter eggs. The tradition of decorating Easter eggs traces back to Mesopotamia, around the time of Jesus’s crucifixion. The eggs were dyed red to represent the blood of Christ, shed during the crucifixion. Soon after, this practice was adopted by the Christian church, as a symbol of resurrection.

Some experts also believe that the Easter egg tradition overlaps with the observance of Lent. Because the Western Christian church formerly forbade eggs to be consumed during Lent (similar to rules against meat today), people had to consume them beforehand. This led to Fat Tuesday (or Mardi Gras), which was when all egg and dairy products were consumed preceding Lent. This could also contribute to the eggs’ popularity on the actual Easter holiday.

Easter eggs have long been a tradition of the holiday, tracing back to ancient times. People often think they are just another secular tradition, stealing the spotlight away from what really matters. Actually, it plays big role in focusing on a Christ-centered Easter holiday. It represents the protection from Jesus and the promise of eternal life.

Cristin Dempsey is an English major and music minor from Eagan, Minn. She enjoys writing, playing the flute and swimming. After college she would like to pursue a career as an editor.

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