By Ashley McKell
Around this time of year many cultures celebrate Easter as a time of “rebirth” through symbols such as rabbits and eggs. How did these originate and why are they still a part of traditions today?
“As part of Passover, the Jews were supposed to take part in a peace offering,” said Victor Ludlow, professor in ancient scripture. “A roasted egg is the symbol of the paschal sacrifice, the peace offering.”
The roasted egg, as part of the Seder symbols for Passover, was a sacrifice offered up in the Jerusalem temple. Whether the tradition of eggs being associated with Easter came from this explanation is unclear. However, millions of Jews still practice this offering today.
In ancient Egypt, Rome and Persia, eggs were dyed for spring festivals. This may be an explanation for why eggs are decorated today.
In medieval Europe, eggs were forbidden during Lent, but that did not stop chickens from laying eggs. Those eggs were boiled or otherwise preserved and became a part of Easter meals as well as gifts for children and servants. When given, these eggs were often decorated.
Many BYU students have memories of wearing Easter outfits, dying hard-boiled eggs and having Easter egg hunts with family members.
Growing up in Texas, Amy Nelson, a junior from Provo studying visual arts, has fond memories making cascarones, colorful confetti-filled eggshells.
“We would get very inventive with our decorating” using tissue paper and glitter, Nelson said. “We would also have Easter egg hunts inside and outside our house. There was candy everywhere and the fun was in trying to beat my siblings to the jackpot areas.”
According to familycrafts.about.com, other activities that families participate in during this season include rolling Easter eggs down hills, an egg bumping contest where the winner has the perfect un-cracked egg, spoon races and yard bowling with Easter eggs.
These games echo past traditions and may have symbolic roots. The rolling of Easter eggs down the hill symbolizes the rolling away of the stone from Christ”s tomb on his day of resurrection. Eggs in general symbolize a sense of renewal and rebirth.
One popular tradition used to teach the story of Christ is the 12 days of Easter.
“There is a carton of 12 plastic eggs that represent part of the Easter story,” Nelson said. “One egg would have a nail inside to signify Christ being nailed to the cross.”
Other items used in the twelve eggs are things such as a thorn, symbolic of Christ”s crucifixion; a palm branch, representing Christ”s entrance into Jerusalem; and three dimes, representing the 30 pieces of silver for which Judas betrayed Jesus.
Even though Easter is sometimes associated with chocolate-covered bunnies and eggs, the roots of these activities and traditions runs deeper.