The Origin of Colored Easter Eggs


I had always heard that the practice of dying eggs at Easter was originally a pagan practice along with the Easter Bunny related to fertility cults. That may be true of the Easter Bunny but not true about coloring Easter Eggs.

Eastern Orthodox Explanation of their Traditional Easter Greetings.

After pronouncing those most-sweet words, “Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!” and exchanging the kiss of peace, we give one another red eggs. The Egg is a sign of our blessed resurrection from the dead, whose pledge we have in Jesus Christ. So that you might understand how the egg is a token of our resurrection, imagine what happens to it after the chicken has incubated it for a few days: from out of it, a new creature emerges, a creature whose life had been hidden within its dead shell. In precisely like manner, the Giver of Life rose from the tomb, death’s abode; the time will come when, through the power of Almighty God, and in response to the Archangel’s sounding trumpet, our bodies will come out of the heart of the earth and will be clothed with incorruption. It is of this that the eggs we give one another remind us.


Eastern Orthodox Red Eggs

Do you know the origin of this custom? It is quite an ancient one. According to tradition, it began with Mary Magdalene. After the Lord’s Ascension, she came to Rome to preach the Gospel. Standing before Emperor Tiberias and saying,
‘Christ is Risen!” she presented him with a red egg. In those days, it was customary for poor people to give their friends, benefactors, the wealthy, and authorities, an egg on the New Year and on birthdays, as a sign of respect. Following Mary Magdalene’s example, early Christians began giving eggs to one another on the days celebrating Christ’s Glorious Resurrection. They passed that custom on to us.

But why did it become the custom to give one another red eggs? According to tradition, the following took place: On the actual day of Christ’s Resurrection, when everyone was convinced that Jesus Christ could not possibly rise from the tomb, a certain Jew was carrying a basket of eggs to market. Along the way, he met another Jew who said to him,

“So, friend, do you know what a miraculous thing has happened in our city Jerusalem? For Christ, Who died three days ago, has risen from the tomb, and already many have seen Him.” However, the Jew who was taking the fresh eggs to market said to him,

“No, I do not believe that Christ has been resurrected from the tomb. That would be just as impossible as to have white eggs suddenly turn red.”

And what happened? As soon as he had spoken those words, the white eggs in the basket suddenly turned red. That miracle so amazed him that he rushed to adopt the Christian Faith. News of that marvelous event soon spread among the faithful Christians, and in commemoration thereof, they began to exchange red eggs with one another. It was perhaps for that reason that Mary Magdalene presented Emperor Tiberius with a red egg.


Mary Magdalene With Oil and Red Egg

At the same time, the red color of the Paschal egg has a special significance. It would be no sin to assert that it represents the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I wonder if Mary Magdalene gave Caesar the red egg because it signified the blood of Christ rather than the basket of eggs story>

There is another legend, less credible to me that as Mary Magdalene presented a white egg to Cesar saying, “Christ is risen from the dead!” Caesar exclaimed, “It is no more possible for Jesus to rise from the dead than for that egg to turn red.” Whereupon, the egg turned red and he converted. This sounds more like a confusion of the story above about the man with the basket of eggs, Mary Magdalene and Caesar you find on the internet and among those who confer goddess status on Mary.

Here is one Recipe for Red Easter Eggs

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5 Responses to The Origin of Colored Easter Eggs

  1. Rosary Student says:

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  2. Fr. J. says:

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  3. bfhu says:

    Thanks Fr. J.

  4. Marty is my hero! says:

    Marty is my hero!

  5. Andrei says:

    Who are “those who confer goddess status to Mary”? What could that mean? I am Eastern Orthodox, Romanian, and I don’t know of any Orthodox who confer goddess status to her. Yes, we do include Mary Magdalene among the Saints of the Church, as do the Catholics too, but not confer goddess status to her. There is only one God, in the Holy Trinity, and there is no confusion there. And the biography (the hagiography) of Mary Magdalene does mention the episode of her meeting with Roman emperor Tiberius and proclaiming to him the Resurrection of Christ, while presenting to him an egg which turned red upon his disbelief. Why would that be hard to believe?

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