Each hue has a different meaning.

By Karla Walsh
April 10, 2020
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The process of dyeing and decorating eggs is one of the most iconic Easter traditions, but have you ever wondered why we associate the bright pastel colors with the holiday? It turns out, the pastel colors of egg dyeing (these are our favorite no-waste methods) and egg hunts (we’re participating in virtual Easter egg hunts this year) represent more than just the springtime hues of yellow chicks, green grass, and pink bunny ears. We chatted with a historian to find out why we associate these colors with Easter, and to learn about the significance behind each one. As you decorate your Easter tree this year, consider these powerful meanings.

Credit: Brie Passano

Why Do We Decorate Colorful Eggs?

“Painted eggs are documented by the 13th century, when King Edward I ordered several hundred eggs to be painted and gilded in gold to be gifted to his household, but the practice of painting eggs traces back much earlier,” explains Beth Forrest, Ph.D., a food historian and professor of liberal arts and food studies at the Culinary Institute of America. 

Eggs were also dyed by Mesopotamian Christians, and the practice of creating intricate designs in pysanka (aka wax) has been a Ukrainian tradition since at least the 17th century. (For a festive addition to your Easter table that’s much easier than wax-decorated eggs, recreate the look with our ceramic gold leaf eggs.)

“Eastern Europe is home to the most exquisitely-decorated eggs, probably most iconic of which were the eggs produced by Fabergé,” Forrest says. “These were commissioned by the tsar to give to his tsarina for Easter.” 

What Do the Colors Mean?

Forrest explains the decorated Easter egg colors reflected more than the artist’s creative vision, too: Yellow was meant to symbolize resurrection, red represented the blood of Christ, and blue was a reminder of love.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Pope Innocent III first outlined the symbolism of the colors in 1198 AD.

  • White symbolized purity, and was used in all important feasts and celebrations, like Maundy Thursday (the Thursday before Easter). That's also why wedding dresses are traditionally made from white fabric. 
  • Red (and pink, when the hue becomes pastel) symbolizes the blood of Christ on the cross.
  • Black is not a traditional Easter color, and in the Christian church the color symbolizes mourning. But violet, which is considered a ‘toned down’ version of black, represents the absence of mourning.
  • For that reason, pastel purple hues are associated with Easter to symbolize the joy felt when Mary Magdalene and the other women discovered the tomb was empty on Easter Sunday.

So as you decorate your eggs for a quiet Easter celebration at home, reflect on what each color means to the holiday.

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