By Rev. Dr. Ed Hird
The first thing that comes to mind as soon as you say Easter, is eggs. One of the customs most popular with children is hunting Easter eggs. I’ll never forget the fun I had as a school-age boy running around my back yard collecting hidden Easter eggs. My sisters loved to eat their chocolate eggs. I loved to hoard mine. Sometimes I sold my left over eggs to them in exchange for money or comics.
In Italy, many children receive a loaf of rich bread shaped like a crown and studded with coloured Easter egg candies. In some parts of Germany, it is customary for village girls to present their suitors with red eggs at Easter. In Northwestern Europe, peasants have formal egg devouring contests. Others have egg stabbing contests in which they try to smash each other’s Easter egg.
Why this obsession with eggs at Easter? The reason is because eggs hold the germ of new life. Easter represents new life through Jesus’ resurrection. So naturally eggs became the perfect symbol of new life and resurrection for the Christian world. The bright colours painted on the eggs became symbolic of the joy and happiness over Jesus’ return from the grave.
Easter became known as the “Sunday of Joy” (Dominica Gaudii). People were so exuberantly joyful over Jesus’ resurrection that they celebrated with dancing, sports, and even joke telling from the pulpit. All labour ceased, all trades were suspended. The Law Courts were closed. Money was given to the poor, slaves were freed. People exchanged the Easter kiss and everyone would greet each other with the phrase “Christ is risen” and the response, “He is risen indeed!” Easter in the old days was a joyful, happy, unforgettable party that changed people’s lives.
One final symbolism of Easter eggs is based on their resemblance to a small stone. Eggs came to represent in a miniaturized way the stone rolled away from Jesus’ tomb. Easter eggs therefore became a powerful reminder that Jesus burst forth from the tomb on Easter morning.
In Denmark, children have contests with dyed Easter eggs, which they roll down hills. The boy or girl whose egg rolls the longest distance without breaking wins his opponent’s egg and keeps his own. The first annual White House Easter Egg Roll began on April 22, 1878 after President Rutherford B. Hayes agreed to open the White House grounds on Easter Monday to children who want to roll Easter eggs. Rolling Stones and rolling eggs are one more way to say ‘He is risen indeed, Alleluia!’
Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin
-an article previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News.
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