The Christian tradition of Easter eggs may have its roots in an earlier Judaic one, where eggs as a symbol of new life were a symbolic part of the Passover Seder. Numerous ancient cultures adopted the egg as part of the Easter holiday tradition. Greeks exchange red ones that symbolize the blood of Christ; Germans and Austrians green ones. Armenians decorated theirs with holy pictures, and Slavic people adorn theirs with silver and gold. The Romanovs took this a step further, adding precious metals, enamels, precious and semi-precious gems, and clocks and mechanical toys as designed by court jeweler, Peter Carl Fabergé.
Following are several articles on the subject:
How the egg came to symbolize Easter
By Patricia Zacharias / The
People used complicated techniques to decorate the eggs. Eggs were gilded, lined with paper and adorned with inscriptions and ornaments. A popular method was to inscribe decorations and verses on the white eggs using liquid wax. Afterwards the eggs were dyed and the spots covered with wax remained and were clearly visible. This elaborate technique is still applied in a few Hessian villages. Nowadays the coloring techniques have become simplified: You can use natural or artificial dye-stuff to make the eggs look like bright toys. The most common household method is using onion-peel brew for eggs-coloring.
Beautifully colored eggs are a perfect Easter gift. Unlike the feudal-time tradition, when the different social classes had different rights and duties (in this case the right to receive the gift and the duty to give it), nowadays people exchange Easter presents to express the friendly attitude and affection. However nobody, and least of all children, is obligated to give presents at Easter. Kids only receive them. In some German regions, children virtually collect Easter eggs from their relatives, especially their godparents. In general, the customs relating to children's gifts have also changed. What once were conventional little gifts, have now become more or less "surprise presents" brought by the Easter Bunny, as little children believe.
Children play games with Easter eggs: They try to outdo each other in rolling colored eggs down grassy slopes, or they knock the egg's pointed ends together, and the child whose egg does not shatter gets the broken egg too. And the family would eat hard-boiled eggs for weeks afterwards!
Easter Egg Tradition
One fairly modern, quite extra-biblical tradition concerning Mary Magdalene says that she was a woman of some wealth and social status. Following Jesus Christ's death and resurrection, she used her position to gain an invitation to a banquet given by Emperor Tiberius Caesar. When she met him, she held a plain egg in her hand and exclaimed "Christ is risen!" Caesar laughed, and said that Christ rising from the dead was as likely as the egg in her hand turning red while she held it. Before he finished speaking, the egg in her hand turned a bright red, and she continued proclaiming the Gospel to the entire imperial house.
Today, many Eastern Orthodox
Christians end the Easter service by sharing bright red eggs
and proclaiming to each other, "Christ is risen!" The
eggs represent new life, and Christ bursting forth from the tomb.
This began one tradition of coloring Easter eggs.
It has been plunged in Lenten gloom.
But now upon the countryside,
The bashful crocuses will bloom.
Egg Painting - from www.globalgourmet.com
Common threads join virtually all forms of egg art. Anthropological studies almost universally find the egg to be a symbol of fertility and rebirth, with its artistic manifestations at the core of many religious belief systems. As such, ritualistic ornamentation of eggs most often revolved around specific holidays or general celebrations associated with spring.
Easter and Lenten egg painting found their roots, in part, in the pre-Christian traditions of the people of northern Europe. Colored eggs of migratory birds returning from warmer climates marked the return of spring to many in the north. It is speculated that artistic renderings on eggs probably occurred as domestication of fowl created a larger supply of white and brown eggs. Dyes using local vegetation then came to furnish a reasonable substitute for colored eggs once provided by the travelling harbingers of the earth's annual rebirth.
Roman and Orthodox Christian missionaries moved the metaphor a step further, as they sought to blend these ancient traditions with the message of spiritual renewal represented in the Resurrection. Egg art evolved to include intricate ornamentation replete with Christian symbols, iconography, and portraits.
Throughout the world and its many cultures, the egg is a widely used symbol for spring, dating back nearly five thousand years to the Ancient Egyptians. The pre-Christian Saxons celebrated the spring equinox with Eostre, a god who was associated with eggs and hares (rather than rabbits). In English 'Eostre' is the root of the Christian festival Easter, although many other languages follow the Hebrew word pasch (like Passorver) resulting in the French paques, Dutch pasen, Spanish Pascua and, in many Eastern countries, pascha.