What’s the origin of Easter eggs?

  • by Sue Ure
What’s the origin of Easter eggs?

Why do we have chocolate eggs at Easter?

This was a question I suddenly found myself thinking about as I scoured my local supermarkets for chocolate Easter eggs in early February. I had thought that they would make great colour coordinated props for a few attractive photos of my mugs and bowls in use. However, this being remote and very rural France, there were absolutely no Easter eggs to be had before St. Valentine’s day had been done and dusted!

The history of decorated Easter eggs

A little researching with the ever-helpful and enlightening Wikipedia, threw up a wealth of information that I had never suspected… decorated eggs from Africa have been dated as being 60,000 years old! More recently - a mere 5000 years or so ago - the pre-dynastic Egyptians put real decorated ostrich eggs as well as gold or silver eggs in their tombs.

Apparently the early Christians of Mesopotamia stained eggs red, green and yellow and the decorated eggs which also symbolised the trinity (shell, white and yolk) were adopted by the Greek Orthodox.  From there, they were gradually adopted by the Catholic and Protestant churches. As eggs were excluded from the diet during Lent (hence Shrove Tuesday and using any stocks of eggs up by making pancakes), they were especially welcome when they made their comeback at the end of Lent. This also meant there was again a stock of eggs to use up when you got to the end of Lent. This may well have contributed to using some of the Lent egg glut in decorative ways.

The chocolate Easter egg tradition

Chocolate Easter eggs first appeared at the court of Louis XIV in Versailles, king of France for the second half of the 1600s.

It wasn’t until the last quarter of the nineteenth century in the UK that Fry and then Cadbury managed to create hollow chocolate Easter eggs. That was an idea that certainly took off!

Wikipedia also had a couple of photos of contemporary, traditionally decorated Easter eggs that took my fancy; this photo is by Reinhard Kirchner and is of Greek painted eggs.

These Ukrainian decorated eggs are presented by Luba Petrusha, a specialist and teacher of this type of decorated eggs, you can learn a lot more about this rich and varied tradition called Pysanky - follow the link to her website to learn more.

Real eggs and real chickens


As for the real thing (chickens and eggs that is) we kept just a couple of chickens and a cock for six years. They were a source of entertainment and added a great liveliness to the garden. They were completely free-range, we had to close in the vegetable garden to protect it from their attentions. I also found that I had to be a bit secretive about planting flowers or small shrubs, otherwise I had chickens helping.

That meant they immediately dug up whatever you’d planted to rootle about in the nice loosened earth underneath. Sadly we suddenly lost two of them to a predator. We weren’t entirely sure what it was, and had to give away our lonely remaining hen to a friend with a safer environment. Luckily, this friend had another lonely hen who needed company.

We really miss the eggs though, even organic shop-bought bio are a pale imitation of Ramona and Daphne’s eggs!

Here’s our cockerel - Captain Beaky - in a bucket - of his own volition I hasten to add!


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