Bring Christian History Alive through Easter Egg Traditions
- Friday, April 04, 2014
As Easter approaches, your family may be one of the many families around the world that celebrates the holiday with eggs. Maybe you and your children will hard boil a carton of eggs and dye them a variety of bright colors. Perhaps you’ll eat the eggs afterward, display them in baskets, or hide them around your house or yard for your kids to find on an egg hunt. Or, you might buy plastic eggs and fill them with candy, then place those eggs in your children’s Easter baskets, use them for an egg hunt, or attend a community egg hunt where large groups of kids dash across fields to find plastic eggs with prizes hidden inside.
You all will likely have fun in the process. Many families today aim to simply have fun with Easter eggs, adding a bit of colorful joy to the holiday. But did you know that, by using eggs to celebrate Easter, you can do much more than just have fun? You can use Easter eggs to teach your children something profound: that they are part of a faith that connects all believers with God, whose Resurrection power can transform them.
Throughout Christian history, believers have celebrated a myriad of Easter egg traditions to express their faith in Jesus Christ’s Resurrection. Early Christians adopted the egg (which was previously a pagan symbol of new life that comes from nature’s cycles of renewal) as an Easter symbol because an egg’s hard shell represents Jesus’ sealed tomb, and cracking the shell symbolizes His Resurrection. Eggs, which often remind people of new life because some creatures are born from them, reminded early Christians that Jesus is the true source of new life spiritually – so they developed Easter traditions involving eggs.
Learning and practicing some of those traditions with your children can deepen their appreciation for the Easter story, Christian history, and their connection to the universal body of Christ. Here are some historical Easter egg traditions that you can celebrate with your kids this year:
Red eggs: Christians first began using eggs to celebrate Easter in ancient Mesopotamia, when they dyed eggs red – the color of blood – to symbolize the power of Jesus’ blood to give people new life. In some Orthodox churches, priests still bless red eggs during Paschal (Easter) vigil services on the night before Easter. You and your children can dye an entire group of eggs red rather than a variety of colors, and then discuss how Jesus loves people so much that He was willing to suffer and bleed on the Cross to pay the cost of our sins. You all can also use your red eggs to play a traditional Greek game called “Tsougrisma,” in which two players at a time each hold a red egg and crack their eggs together, trying to break their opponent’s egg without cracking their own. You and your kids can also prepare and eat an Easter snack from the Byzantine era: red eggs set within the folds of braided bread, which gives the impression of blood on the Cross.
Pysanky eggs: These elaborately decorated eggs reflect a style of art called “Pysanky” that originated in Eastern European countries such as Ukraine. Pysanky emphasizes writing or drawing on eggs with wax in between dyeing them different colors in progressively darker shades. Traditional Pysanky colors represent faith concepts that relate to Easter: white (purity), yellow (light and joy), orange (strength and endurance), red (the passion of Jesus on the Cross), green (hope and spiritual growth), blue (spiritual health), brown (Earth), and black (eternity). Also, traditional words (such as the phrase “Christ is Risen”) and pictures (like ladders, which represent prayer) used in Pysanky express concepts relating to Easter. Working with your kids to create layers of symbolic art on Pysanky eggs, you can discuss how God works in each of the different parts of their lives (from their relationships with family and friends, to their activities at church and school).
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