Easter eggs – the whats, the whys and the hows

Easter eggs – the whats, the whys and the hows

April 5, 2015

Today is Easter Sunday and what better to talk about than the beautiful tradition of giving Easter eggs.

What are Easter eggs?

Easter eggs are decorated eggs that are often given as gifts to celebrate Easter or springtime. The oldest tradition is to use dyed and painted chicken eggs, but modern customs include chocolate eggs, or plastic eggs filled with confectionery such as jelly beans. These eggs can be hidden for children to find on Easter morning, that may be left by the Easter Bunny. They may also be put in a basket filled with real or artificial straw to resemble a bird's nest.

Hanacke kraslice is a way of decorating Easter eggs with straw in the region of Hana, Czech Republic (traditionscustoms.com)

Why Easter eggs?

Eggs, in general, are a traditional symbol of fertility and rebirth. In Christianity, for the celebration of Eastertide, Easter eggs symbolise the empty tomb of Jesus: though an egg appears to be like the stone of a tomb, a bird hatches from it; similarly, the Easter egg, for Christians, is a reminder that Jesus rose from the grave, and believers will also experience eternal life.

Easter eggs were traditionally dyed red (London Glossary Post)

The tradition

The practice of decorating egg shells is ancient, pre-dating Christian traditions. Ostrich eggs with engraved decorations that are 60,000 years old have been found in parts of Africa. Decorated ostrich eggs, and representations of ostrich eggs in gold and silver, were commonly placed inside graves of the ancient Sumerians and Egyptians as early as 5,000 years ago. The custom of the Easter egg originated among the early Christians of Mesopotamia, who stained eggs red in memory of the blood of Jesus Christ shed at his crucifixion. Later, the Church officially adopted the custom, regarding the eggs as a symbol of the resurrection.

Decorated ostrich-egg flask made by the San people of South Africa (The British Museum)

Naturally colouring Easter eggs

Colouring Easter eggs is a fun experience for children and adults. The activity brings out the creativity in all of us. While there are very convenient methods of dyeing with store-bought kits, nature has the most beautiful colouring agents and it is never a bad thing to use natural ingredients for your food, even if it is just for looking. The ingredients are compostable, chemical-free and are a wonderful teaching experience for your children!


Method 1:

  • Place the eggs in a single layer in a pan.
  • Add water until the eggs are covered.
  • Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of vinegar. It acts as a fixative. Without it, the dyes won't stick to the eggs.
  • Add the natural dye. Use more dyes for a more intense colour.
  • Bring the water to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  • If you are pleased with the colour, remove the eggs from the liquid.

Method 2:

  • Bring water to a boil, and add the dye ingredients.
  • Let them simmer for 15-30 minutes until the dye is of the desired colour.
  • Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of white vinegar as a fixative.
  • Let the dyes cool.
  • Strain to remove the solid residues.
  • Add completely cooled hard-boiled eggs and let them soak until they are stained with the desired colour.


  • Natural dyes are made by mixing white vinegar and water to the natural products.
  • COLOUR GUIDE: Red: Grated beet; Yellow & Gold: Turmeric; Blue: Grated red cabbage; Brown: Strong coffee; Green: Chopped spinach; Orange: Yellow onion skins.
  • Mix combinations of the primary-colour dyes (in separate cups) to make secondary colours; for example, red and yellow for orange, yellow and blue for green, and blue and red for violet.
  • The proportion of one colour to the other determines the shade.


  • Natural colour-dyed eggs do not have a glossy sheen.
  • However, you can give them that shine by rubbing a little vegetable oil on them after they are completely dry.
  • Start with a little and then add to get the desired shine.

Natural colour-dyed Easter eggs (The Heritage Cook)

Traditional Easter egg painting in Dissen

A Slavic community in Germany is keeping alive the traditional craft of Easter egg painting. The Sorbian Heritage Museum in the town of Dissen in Lower Saxony state in western Germany, has been teaching children how to create the intricate patterns. Interestingly, the eggs can be decorated in different ways to convey a message to the recipient. Take a look at this video to learn about the commendable efforts being undertaken.

Easter eggs in Kolkata

Kolkata also has a tradition of Easter eggs. Easter eggs of good quality are available in quite a few places. And not just eggs, but also other Easter products like Easter bunnies, Easter cookies, etc. Some of the better places for Easter shopping are:

FLURYS: Simnel cake, nougatine eggs, marzipan figures, sugar baskets, half fondant eggs, real shell eggs, etc.

KOOKIE JAR: Easter eggs (white and dark chocolate), chocolate bunnies, animal-shaped Easter cookies, etc.

BREWIN: Coloured chocolate bunnies, hot cross buns, solid chocolate eggs, ricotta cheesecake, Easter goodie bags, etc.

NAHOUM’S: Chocolate and marzipan eggs, sweet buns, Easter baskets, etc.

SCOOP: Chick Chick Sundae or Mother Hen, hot bunny, etc.

Another Easter egg

In computer software, Easter eggs are secret responses that occur in response to an undocumented set of commands. The results can vary from a simple printed message or image, to a page of programmer credits or a small video game hidden inside an otherwise serious piece of software. Video game cheat codes are a specific type of Easter egg, in which entering a secret command will unlock special powers or new levels for the player.

A techy Easter egg is coding or features on the Web that either shouldn't be there or you don't expect to find – and there are plenty to keep us entertained. An example: Typing ‘Zerg Rush’ in Google will transform your results into a game. To stop your search results from obliteration, prevent the letter 'O' from going too far.

Lead image: www.gde-fon.com

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