The egg is an ancient symbol of new life and has been associated with festivals celebrating spring for centuries. The idea of dying or decorating eggs for Easter may have started in the 1200s. Many tales have been told about why we dye, hide, and even roll eggs at Easter. We found some that might surprise you.

Keeping the Monster in Chains

Some of the most intricate and beautiful eggs are created by Ukranian artists. These eggs are called pysanky and are painted with detailed geometric or floral designs. Many stories are told about the tradition of the pysanky. One tale says the eggs represent the return of the sun after a long winter. Another origin story tells of a monster who lived in the Carpathian mountains. Tradition says that the more pysanky people create, the tighter and stronger the chains that hold the beast.

Forbidden Eggs

In the Middle Ages, the Catholic church forbade eating eggs during Lent. When Lent ended on Easter Sunday, eggs were a featured part of the celebration meal. People began decorating eggs and presenting them as Good Friday offerings. In 1290, King Edward I of England gave his household 450 eggs decorated with colors and gold leaf.

Roll, Roll, Roll Your Egg

Another tradition that started in England was pace-egging, or rolling decorated eggs down grassy hills. President Rutherford B. Hayes hosted the first official White House Egg Roll in 1878. The Monday after Easter, the President and First Lady invite children and their families to the South Lawn of the White House. Children push colored eggs through the grass with long-handled spoons. Some believe this fun spring tradition represents the stone being rolled away from Jesus’ tomb on Easter morning.

Where did I put that egg?

It seems the tradition of hiding Easter eggs comes from Germany. Martin Luther is said to have organized egg hunts for the members of his church. The men would hide eggs for the women and children to find. This acknowledges the Christian tradition that women found the empty tomb.

And what’s up with the bunny?

We can also thank German Christians for the Easter Bunny. In 1682, Georg Franck von Franckenau wrote an essay about the Easter Hare. Bunnies, or hares, have long been symbols of fertility, and rabbits often appear in paintings of the Virgin Mary. German tradition says that the Easter Bunny would hide brightly colored eggs around the house and garden for good children to find.