Decorating eggshells is an ancient tradition. In cultures around the world, the egg is a symbol of new life, fertility, and rebirth. For this reason, many ancient cultures used eggs during their spring festivals. In Africa, decorated ostrich eggs have been found that are over 60,000 years old. Ostrich eggs of gold and silver were found in graves of the ancient Sumerians and Egyptians.
In 1610 A.D., the Christian Church began the custom of decorating eggs in memory of Jesus Christ. These eggs were stained red to represent the blood shed at Christ’s crucifixion. The hard shell of the egg represented Christ’s sealed tomb, and thus the cracking of the egg symbolized resurrection. Christians wouldn’t eat eggs during Lent, and Easter was the first chance to eat them after 40 days of going without. The eggs laid during that time were often preserved through boiling. This is also why eggs were in abundance during Easter meals.
Many traditions have formed around eggs. In Europe, they were hung on New Year trees and Maypoles, since the egg symbolizes the regenerative forces of nature. Egg hunts and rolling eggs down a hill were games played by many cultures. Every year the White House has an Easter egg roll on the lawn.
Decorating techniques and traditions vary by culture, but eggs were often given as a token of friendship, love, and peace.
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