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What do Eggs Have to Do With Easter?

I absolutely love Easter egg hunts. There's something so very magical about the wide-eyed faces of little kids as they hunt for their little treasures. A child who finds an egg is full of absolute joy, "LOOK!" This year, the American Association of Singapore held our annual Easter Extravaganza at the beautiful new facilities of XCL American Academy. What a perfect spot for a hunt! The kids rambled through the new building, crazy excited to search every nook and cranny. We did a couple of special things, too, like hiding gold eggs that could be exchanged for Peeps, iconic marshmallow treats we imported from the States. Joy!

I remember as a kid how mystified I was that my dad always seemed to know where all the eggs were. He'd direct me around the room as I searched. "Getting warmer. Getting warmer." Magic! One year, my brother hid eggs for me in a practice round a few days before the Easter Bunny did the real thing. Only we lost one egg which we found on Thanksgiving (yes, SEVEN months later). It was hidden in the sugar bowl. Somehow, the sugar had preserved the egg, but when my uncle went to get some sugar for his coffee and cracked the egg...well.. let's just say nothing clears a Thanksgiving table faster than the smell of rotten eggs!

And of course, some of my absolute favorite memories of my own children involve watching them scour the earth for Easter eggs with their cousins. Sigh. It goes too fast, doesn't it?

But as I sat there watching all the kids this year, I got to wondering, "What the heck do eggs have to do with Easter?" So... I did a little research. Turns out, the history of Easter egg hunting is a fascinating journey that spans centuries and combines ancient traditions with Christian symbolism.

Ancient Pagan Roots

The practice of decorating eggs goes way back! It actually started with the ancient pagan civilizations, such as the Egyptians, Persians, and Romans. These cultures believed that eggs symbolized fertility, new life, and the arrival of spring. Eggs were often decorated with vibrant colors and patterns as part of springtime celebrations.

Christian Adoption

When Christianity spread across Europe, it absorbed many existing customs and rituals, including the use of eggs as symbols of new life and rebirth. The egg became associated with Easter, representing the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the promise of eternal life.

Medieval Traditions

During the Middle Ages, eggs were often forbidden during Lent, the 40-day period of fasting and penance before Easter. As a result, eggs laid during this time were boiled to preserve them and were often given as gifts or used in Easter feasts. This tradition eventually led to the custom of decorating and hiding eggs for children to find. Aha!

Rituals in Eastern Europe

In Eastern European countries like Russia, Ukraine, and Poland, intricate egg decorating techniques such as pysanka and batik became highly developed art forms. These decorated eggs were exchanged as gifts and used in Easter festivities, including egg rolling and egg hunts.

Victorian Era Revival

In the 19th century, the Victorian era saw a resurgence of interest in Easter traditions, including egg decorating and hunting. Elaborate Easter eggs made of chocolate and sugar became popular, and Easter egg hunts became a cherished activity for children during the holiday season. My kids are most thankful for this piece of history, I'm sure.

Modern-Day Celebrations

Today, we all know that Easter egg hunting is a truly beloved tradition in many cultures around the world. Americans, in particular, love hunting eggs. I was surprised that some of my Singaporean friends had never hunted eggs! What fun it was to introduce them to all those happy kids! Of course, every family does it a bit different. Some hide hardboiled eggs. Some hid plastic eggs with candy or small toys inside. AAS? We hide wooden eggs that are then exchanged for candy. And our Singaporean events manager who had never been to a hunt had a brilliant idea: every age bracket hunts for a different color. That way, the older kids still get to hunt, but the little kids have a chance of finding eggs. So smart!

Overall, the history of Easter egg hunting reflects a blend of ancient fertility rites, Christian symbolism, and cultural traditions that have evolved over time to create a joyful and meaningful Easter celebration.

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