It won't be long before millions of families across the nation will gather together around their tables with bowls full of dye, some fancy stickers, and a whole bunch of chicken eggs. Along with Easter comes Easter eggs. They are such a staple of American life that people rarely stop and think about why, exactly, they do it. How do colorful eggs and chicks relate to Easter? Why do we do it, and where did it start?
The practice of coloring eggshells for special events is an ancient one. The oldest known examples date back to 60,000 years ago when prehistoric humans painted ostrich eggs. After the rise of civilization, ancient Mesopotamians and Egyptians would paint eggs to symbolize new life and a celebration of spring. This practice spread through other cultures, eventually influencing early Christians who soon adopted the practice in their worship of Jesus Christ.
For early Christians, the egg was a clear symbol for Jesus. The eggs were most often painted red to symbolize the blood of Jesus, and baby chicks acting as a symbol for the rebirth of Jesus. During the middle ages, the practice of using eggs during Easter only continued to grow. It was a common practice of the time that people weren't allowed to eat eggs during Lent. After going weeks without them, the people were naturally excited and decorated and celebrated their ability to enjoy the food staple once again.
The Easter Egg tradition would later be brought to America by Germans who settled in Pennsylvania. The eggs were still a symbol of the life of Jesus, and the practice slowly spread throughout the entire nation. Today, it's estimated that over 180 million chicken eggs are bought each Easter as people continue the decorating tradition.
The practice of dying eggs remains alive and strong, and there's no doubt that there will be plenty of dining tables with new stains on them very soon--and lots of egg salad sandwiches in the near future! Happy Easter, everyone!