April 24th 2011
Traditionally eggs are seen as a symbol for the earth’s rebirth in springtime – this goes back thousands of years to pagan times when people believed that the earth died in winter and was reborn in spring. It is thought that early Christians adopted the egg as a symbol of Christ’s death and resurrection. Today, generally, people give each other chocolate eggs at Easter, but in the Greek Orthodox Church they continue a very old tradition of dyeing real eggs which are blessed by their priest. In particular, the eggs are dyed red, which symbolises the blood of Christ.
My next door neighbour is a Greek Cypriot woman, who has lived in London for the last 60 years. Every Easter she distributes her home dyed eggs to friends and neighbours. If you keep the eggs for a couple of years, the inside shrinks and you can hear it rattling around when you shake it. I’m not sure if one is supposed to eat the freshly dyed egg or not. I’ve always assumed that the giving of the egg was a gesture of Christianity, holiness, good luck and friendship, as opposed to a gift of food.
Eggs are not normally eaten during Lent, so Easter eggs also signify that Lent is over. Chickens continue to produce eggs throughout the Lenten period and therefore, by the time that Easter comes, there’s a surplus of eggs needing to be used up.