Many cultures believe eggs to be the source of new life from inanimate matter, and even that the world emerged from an egg. In Ancient Egypt, an egg was revered as the origin of the world. One version of the creation myth mentions the cosmic egg hatching the ‘bird of light’. The Chinese already gave painted eggs as gifts at the beginning of spring some 5000 years ago. In Ancient Greece and Rome, to celebrate the equinox in March (the beginning of the year), it was customary to hang up colourful eggs and given them as gifts. In this example, eggs represented new beginnings. With a similar connotation, from the 4th century, eggs also served as funeral offerings, placed in Roman-Germanic tombs to wish the deceased be resurrected.
Christianity adopted eggs as a symbol of fertility, resurrection, and eternal life. From the outside, eggs appear stone cold, yet inside they nurture young life. Just as a grave keeps life locked in, eggs stood for the tomb in Jerusalem, from which Christ rose from death ‘like a bird hatching from an egg’. Consequently, eggs are an inherent part of Christian Easter celebrations. In one of Jesus’ parables, he calls the egg a good gift, hence eggs were regarded as ‘virtuous food’.
In Spain and Italy, eggs are still prominent in baptismal chapels, on altars of Mary, or at the feet of Jesus on the cross. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, to commemorate Christ's resurrection, golden eggs or ostrich eggs are hung on the ‘icon wall’.