Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.
About the Foundation
Home : Knowledge : Eggs symbol life

Eggs as a symbol of life

An egg already played a symbolic role in the Egyptian myth of Creation. Romans used eggs as a burial offering. The custom of giving eggs as gifts continues today, especially at Easter, the celebration of resurrection and the awakening of nature. An egg became a symbol of life because it encloses nascent life to emerge from it. It embodies the idea of rebirth and rejuvenation in the cycle of life, reflected also in its shape, with neither beginning nor end.
ST032-01 Leda cygne dapres Leo Vinci 1508-1515
Domaine Public / Wikimedia - Francesco Melzi,
Leda and the Swan by Léonard de Vinci, 1508-1515, Galleria    
degli Uffizi, Florence​

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’.

Eggs at Easter

Whether hen’s eggs, chocolate eggs or porcelain eggs, Easter eggs come in a variety of colours and sizes. To this day, it is customary to eat eggs at Easter, to give them as gifts and to use them for decorative purposes. Not only does Christian symbolism play a role in this, but there are also practical reasons. In the Middle Ages, the church forbade eating meat and eggs during Lent (from Ash Wednesday to Good Friday). As a result, farmers accumulated large numbers of eggs before Easter and so they were cooked, decorated, consecrated in the church and then given away. They reappeared on the table on Easter Sunday. Farmers also often paid part of their rent in ‘eggs with interest' at Easter.

Dyeing eggs

Easter eggs have been traditionally painted red since the 13th century, as a colour representing life and joy, and also as a symbol of the blood shed on the cross. Thus, the colour red reminds us of the sacrificial death of Jesus. It was only later that Easter eggs were painted in other colours too.