What is the history behind painting eggs for Easter?
Easter and eggs have gone hand in hand for hundreds of years, and it’s not hard to find the connection between eggs and a springtime celebration of rebirth. It’s a little more challenging to figure out why so many of these eggs are painted, dyed, and otherwise ornamented into brilliant patterns and hues each year.
Humans have taken it upon themselves to decorate eggshells since ancient times. Decorated ostrich shells dating back 60,000 years have been found in Africa, and ostrich eggs were all the rage 5,000 years ago in Sumer and Egypt. Christians jumped on the egg-decorating bandwagon a little later, beginning with the Mesopotamians, who dyed eggs red in memory of the blood of Christ. The Christian Church supposedly made the practice official around the 12th century, and Christians have continued the custom ever since.
Other theories star Mary Magdalene and an egg that turned red representing the stone that had been rolled away from Christ’s tomb. Various versions of the legend differ, depending on location. One takes place at Jesus’ tomb, one before Emperor Tiberius of Rome, and a third with the soldiers who crucified Jesus. Regardless of the specifics, each version ends the same way: the eggs that Mary brought with her turn red thus beginning a tradition of egg-dying that continues today.
Whatever the history behind painting eggs may be, one thing is for sure: this year’s Easter will be no different. Get ready to paint those eggs—any color you like—and Happy Easter to those who celebrate.