It was an erstwhile custom that a mother, no matter how elderly or ailing she felt, would take it upon herself to bring food to her lad bided elsewhere as soon as the snow thawed and the first white spring shoots pierced the ground.
A folktale tells that Mary, the mother of Jesus, took it upon herself to visit Jesus in Jerusalem and thus she packed a basket with fresh eggs. It wasn’t much else she could take him, Herod having just increased his taxes, again.
The road was winding through the verdant green hills of Judea and Mary’s heart felt light for each step brought her hither to her son, which she hasn’t seen in a long time. As the morning progressed her own shadow became but a puddle by her feet. Soon enough the basket began feeling heavier and heavier in her work-worn hand and her steps became slower and slower and she felt like her journey to Jerusalem had become a quest for shade. Not many trees were in bloom so as soon as Mary spotted a stream sheltered by a little arbor she quickened her step and stopped to cool and quench her thirst. It was a thirst like she had never felt before. So she looked about and decided to stop for a few moments.
The stream singed and Mary saw a new nest above her head and smiled. Life was precious. The water moved softly over her fingers and, when she removed her hand, a few droplets lingered on her fingers. She brought the hand to her eyes and smiled, a whole life scene embedded in those tiny see-through pearls.
It was a peaceful moment and life’s moments were just like this string of beads following each other on her outstretched hand. Each one connected to the next, stronger together. Filled with love.
But it was time to move along. Before getting up something tugged at her heart and Mary lifted the white cotton fabric that covered the basket to see if the eggs were still in good shape.
A dreadful sight unfolded before her eyes. It was as if the sun had stopped shining, no gurgling from the stream could glide through the air and all proof of life on earth had been stamped out.
The eggs had turned blood red and the Blessed Mother of Jesus understood that the time had come for her son to pay for our sins. But she was first a mother and he was her baby boy and so she wept, Mary did, and as her tears rolled down her cheeks and dripped onto the blood covered eggs they drew patterns, a cross, a star, lines and spirals.
When Mary reached the place where Jesus hang on the cross, she laid the basket at his feet and kneeled to pray. Then Jesus spoke and asked her not to cry for Him, but to share those blessed eggs with the people who believe in His resurrection.
This is why on the Orthodox Easter we color boiled eggs in red, we draw patterns on them and we share them with our loved ones, family, friends, colleagues, knocking egg against egg and saying: “Christ has risen,” and answer “It is true He has risen.”
The symbolism of the Easter egg
The hard shell of the egg symbolizes the sealed Tomb of Christ.
The cracking of the egg (through knocking) symbolizes His Resurrection.
The Ritual of coloring Easter Eggs
It is said that coloring Easter eggs is a sacred ritual. The day when one colors the eggs is special and no other activity will take place.
On counting the eggs that are to be colored, one doesn’t begin with one, but with “one thousand”, thus bringing wealth in the house for the remainder of the year.
The paint was already prepared, using different plants for different colors. GREEN – was made from walnut leaves, sweet apple skin. RED came from the leaf of a sweet apple, corn leaves or thyme. A special flower was used for YELLOW. Oregano was used to give the colored eggs a heavenly perfume.
The room where the eggs were painted was also special. No worried or upset person was allowed to step inside and no bad rumors or news of people who just passed away were allowed to reach the ears of the egg-painter.
Easter egg color symbolism
Easter eggs are nowadays colored in a rainbow of shades.
WHITE – means purity
RED – symbolizes the blood of Christ and life
BLUE – symbolizes the sky above, uniting us all
BLACK – means fertility
GREEN – means nature
YELLOW – symbolizes sun and energy
Orthodox Easter Egg Design Symbolism
A straight vertical line means life.
A straight horizontal line means death.
A double straight line symbolizes eternity.
A rectangle pattern – symbolizes thought and knowledge.
A sinuous line symbolizes water and purity.
A spiral means time and eternity.
A double spiral symbolizes the connection between life and death.
Cross – symbol for Christianity
A cross with additional small crosses at the end of each arm is a Russian cross.
A star – is called the “shepherd’s star”
A monastery – symbol of Christianity
Other motives used for decorating Easter eggs: bees, frogs, snakes, lambs, garden tools, fir tree, tulip, wheat.
Other traditions call for all the family members to wash their faces with fresh water on Easter morning, water from a container that holds a red egg and a silver coin. It is believed that the red egg brings good luck, good health, warn off evil spirits and all spells.