The symbolism of eggs at Easter

By Efrosini Costa

colourful eggs
Colourful Easter eggs are a family tradition for most at Easter /iStock
Despite geographical and cultural differences, the symbolism and importance of eggs remains universal, whether at Easter time or not.

Legends involving the humble egg exist in almost every culture. The ancient Egyptians believed the creation of the universe was born from an all-encompassing egg. Hindu mythology also points to a ‘golden world’ that existed before time began within a Cosmic Egg of creation. Similarly, the Finnish myth of Kalevala attributed creation to the broken eggs of a duck.

Even across the range of culturally diverse islands, Polynesian folklore stories all shared a similar story of creation that centred on the hatching of an egg. But the egg also commonly symbolises fertility and was used in various rituals to promote agriculture.

The Germans and Slovenians would smear an egg on their pillows the Thursday before Easter to ensure a good harvest. Dyed eggs rolled in green oats and then buried were said to bring a rich harvest in the Ukraine. It was also a shared belief that eggs possessed healing properties, touching an egg to an infected part of the body was rumoured to cure infection.

The Pennsylvania Dutch, an early wave of German-speaking settlers in America, believed that eggs laid on Good Friday could cure mouth ulcers for bubs and a whole egg fed to a cow would relieve illness. Indians in Bombay placed eggs in the foundations of important monuments because of their protective nature. In Persia and China eggs were offered to the gods or as coloured gifts.

As Christianity became more widely accepted, eggs continued as an important symbol especially for those of Orthodox faith from Greece to Russia. Dyed, coloured and painted eggs became part and parcel of Easter celebrations, symbolising the Resurrection, renewal of life and new beginnings.

Greek Easter Plait with Honey & Sesame


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