Thursday, March 24, 2011

History of the Easter Egg

St Mary the Myrrh-Bearer 

Hunting for Easter eggs buried in the backyard is an age old tradition in the "west". But just how old is this tradition, and why the eggs?

It actually starts with Mary Magdalene. You may remember her as the woman filled with seven demons who was cured/exorcised by Jesus (Luke 8: 2-3). Later, she was also seen as one of the Myrrh-bearing women at Jesus' tomb who saw the risen Christ (John 20) "18 Mary Magdalen comes and tells the disciples: I have seen the Lord; and these things he said to me."

Mary Magdalene is honored as a Saint in the Orthodox Catholic Church, as well as the Roman Catholic Church. Existent as one of the traditions of the Church, which not being told through sacred scripture, but never-the-less an event passed within the Church, Mary Magdalene's story is the basis for our egg traditions.

The tradition is that shortly after Christ's resurrection, Mary the Myrrh-Bearer traveled to Rome to preach, and eventually gained an audience with Caesar Tiberius (14-37 AD). She denounced Pontius Pilatus, who was appointed by Tiberius, for his improper handling of Jesus' trial and persecutions by the local Jewish community. She then concluded her talk with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Picking of a chicken egg from the table, she illustrated the resurrection. During the Jewish Passover, the egg is cracked, and eaten to symbolize new life, who's teaching is still maintained within the Church. The cracked egg for us symbolizes the opening tomb, and the new life within springs forth and nourishes us.

Tiberius, unimpressed by her religious talk, arrogantly states that a human being could never return to life... anymore that this egg could turn red! The egg in Mary's hand turned to red at this moment, proclaiming the Truth of her Faith.

Homemade Easter/Pascha eggs are astonishingly easy to make. Without the need for special dyes, all you need to turn your eggs red is a yellow onion. For a deeper color, vinegar may be added to the water. The vinegar will score the surface of the egg allowing for more color absorption.  For a different texture, the raw eggs to be wrapped in the skins of the yellow onion and then boiled together. 

Try this About-dot-com article for Greek red eggs to help make your Easter traditions more theologically Christ centered.

Source: Egg Tradition
Source: Mary Magdalene


  1. Hello! I'm wondering if you are the owner of this photo of the red eggs. I'm looking for one to use in a book, and would love to speak more with you about it if you have time. Please email me :)
    jane g meyer