The History, Symbolism, and Teaching of Easter Egg Hunts
16th century Protestant Reformer Martin Luther is believed to have been the first Christian leader known to hold Easter Egg Hunts. Easter and eggs go back centuries earlier, though. Throughout the medieval period eggs were one of the foods required to be fasted for the 40 days of Lent. Easter Sunday broke the fast with a joyful feast in which eggs played a large role, especially for the poorest Christian fellowships who could not afford meat.
In Luther’s Easter Egg Hunts, the men were tasked with hiding the eggs for the women and children to find. The fact that the women were included in the searching was intentional. You see, a story was being told. A story that too often is now lost in our current Easter Egg Hunts.
The egg shell represented the tomb of Jesus. And who found the empty tomb? Women! So the men actively and enthusiastically aided in hiding the eggs in order to allow the women and children to search for the “tomb of Jesus.” While a joyful and entertaining fellowship activity, the Hunt was explicitly orchestrated to tell the story of Easter morning. The very fact that an egg is naturally the beginning of new life expressed the victory over sin and death won through our risen Savior.
As time has passed, we now often have plastic eggs or foil wrapped egg-shaped sweets. Modern Easter Egg Hunts focus more on the candy or money hidden in the egg than what the egg shell represents.
This post is not about criticizing how time has changed the tradition as much as it is in being intentional at making the tradition edifying for the Christian walk. One could argue that the candy or money found in the egg is to represent the treasured reality we share with those women on that first Easter morning. Christ is Risen! And oh, how that changes everything!
Perhaps the objects inside the plastic eggs today represent us and the shell the atoning sacrifice of Christ’s blood that covers us. “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:3. “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” Romans 6:5.
Perhaps in your Easter Egg Hunt there is one egg that is actually empty and the one who is able to find that egg gets a prize no (egg-sized) tomb could ever hold.
You see, it does not really matter how you set up an Easter Egg Hunt or what exact symbolism is being expressed by the eggs and their content. Or really whether you even do Easter Eggs at all. What matters is that the story of Christ Crucified and He is Risen Indeed are actually being told and taught and lived out together.
So, if this year with all of it’s unique circumstances surrounding the ongoing pandemic prevented you from doing an Easter Egg Hunt, it’s not too late! The kids are home, dad. Mom, you have an important role to play. Embrace it! Get excited about it. What better news could you ever share with your family or the world than “Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!”?