As we prepare our hearts for Easter this year and as the world’s eye is drawn toward Ukraine, I was reminded of the beautiful Ukrainian Pysanki Easter Eggs. I was able to actually go online and purchase six of these beautiful, and for current reasons, increasingly rare eggs.
So, what is the history of the Easter Egg? I’m glad you asked. It seems that the tradition of exchanging eggs is just one of many Christian traditions that originated in other cultures. Early civilizations, including the Egyptians, Romans, Chinese and Persians had rituals involving eggs. When the Gospel expanded throughout the world, the Church used these opportunities to convert not only people, but their way of thinking also. The Church took the practices of their everyday culture and transformed them into symbols of their new-found faith in Christ. So, the egg became a natural symbol of the new birth that comes about through the resurrection of Christ.
Consequently, many legends developed throughout the centuries that tied eggs directly to the story of Christ’s resurrection. One story says that Simon of Cyrene was an egg merchant and upon returning from the crucifixion, he discovered that all his hens’ eggs had turned a rainbow of colors. Another story says that Mary, Jesus’ mother offered eggs to the soldiers at the cross, asking them to be less cruel. As her tears fell on the eggs, they became rainbow colored. Lastly, there is a tradition in the Greek Orthodox Church of one of the Apostles telling a woman about the resurrection. Not believing him, she looked down at her apron which was filled with eggs, and said, “If these eggs turn red, I will believe.” They immediately turned blood red.
Because of this final story, the Christian practice of coloring eggs (particularly red) at Easter seems to have originated with Greek and Russian churches. From this Eastern Orthodox tradition have come the beautiful Ukrainian Pysanki eggs and the famous eggs crafted by Peter Carl Faberge for the Czar and Czarina of Imperial Russia.
So what does this mean?? Should we color and exchange eggs at Easter?? Well, I’ll let you be the judge for your own family. My opinion, however, is that symbols are a powerful way of communicating the truths of the gospel. Object lessons are perfect for teaching (especially children) about our faith. The key is to explain the meaning behind the symbol!! Brightly colored eggs, in and of themselves have no eternal value in the lives of children - but the message of the resurrection as demonstrated through the egg can have tremendous power! And as you see colored Easter eggs this year, remember to pray for our fellow Believers in Ukraine and Russia. Their Easter will be dramatically different this year. In closing, I will leave you with the traditional Greek Orthodox Easter proclamation that accompanies the exchanging of scarlet-colored eggs - “Christos Anesti!” “Christ is Risen!”