Eggs were colored, blessed, exchanged, and eaten as part of the rites of spring long before Christian times.
Even the earliest civilizations held springtime festivals to welcome the sun’s rising from its long winter sleep, viewing the sun’s return from darkness as an annual miracle and the egg as a symbol of the renewal of life.
As Christianity spread, the egg was adopted as a reminder of resurrection. Here’s how eggs have been celebrated at Easter in different countries:
Slavic countries. Baskets of food including eggs are traditionally taken to church to be blessed on Holy Saturday or before the Easter midnight Mass and then taken home for a part of Easter breakfast.
Central European countries. Polish, Slavic, and Ukrainian people create intricate designs on the eggs. They draw lines with a wax pencil or stylus, dip the egg in color, and repeat the process many times to make true works of art. Every dot and line in the pattern has a meaning. Yugoslavian Easter eggs bear the initials XV for “Christ is Risen,” a traditional Easter greeting.
Russia. During the reign of the tsars, the Russian royal family carried the custom of decorative eggs to great lengths, giving exquisitely detailed jeweled eggs made by goldsmith Carl Faberge from the 1880s until 1917.
Germany. Eggs that go into Easter foods are not broken, but emptied out. The empty shells are painted and decorated with bits of lace, cloth, or ribbon and then hung with ribbons on an evergreen or small, leafless tree.