Red Easter Eggs

Red Easter Eggs
Red Easter Eggs

As you all are preparing for Easter, here is a new idea. The origins of red Easter eggs among the Easter Orthodox goes back to a story of Mary Magdalene. I have heard two stories on the origins of the egg. The egg itself is said to represent Christ. The intact egg died red represents Christ’s passion and death, while the opened egg represents new life. So here are the stories linking Mary Magdalene to the red Easter eggs.

Mary visits the Roman emperor and greets him with “Christ has risen”. The emperor replied that Christ can no more rise again than this egg can turn red. At that point the egg in his hand turned blood red. She then continued to preach Christ’s resurrection to the stunned emperor. This is the most common story I have heard and it is only associated with Mary Magdalene.

St Mary Magdalene
St Mary Magdalene

The second story is less common. Boiled eggs were a common food in Jesus’ time. So Mary Magdalene and the other women took boiled eggs with them to the tomb on Easter morning. When they arrived at the tomb they discovered it was empty and met the risen Lord. As a sign, their eggs turned red.  I’ve only seen this story on the internet, once. The first story seems to be much more widely accepted.

So you might wonder, as I did, how red Easter eggs became ubiquitous among the Eastern Orthodox. First the story is very popular and Mary Magdalene has always been a major saint in the East, where she was never associated with women of ill repute and is known as being ‘equal to the apostles’. Most modern icons of Mary Magdalene today show her holding a red egg. From antiquity, red has always been a color associated with Mary Magdalene in the East and West. In the West, she is often shown with red hair and/or a red dress. In the East she is more often shown with a red veil and associated with the red Easter eggs.

Belarusian Easter Eggs
Belarusian Easter Eggs

It turns out that home made red easter eggs are really easy to make from materials available to every peasant in the East. Apparently all it takes is the skins of yellow onions and the eggs. This recipe recommends adding a little vinegar, but I’ve seen other recipes without the vinegar. That is all the ingredients you need: eggs, yellow onion skins, water to boil it in and some white vinegar. I don’t know why the yellow onion skins produce a blood red stain. Some recipes call for raw eggs to be wrapped in yellow onion skins and then boil them together. I think this gives the eggs a red crackle appearance. Other recipes call for making the red stain by boiling yellow onion skins, straining it and then boiling the eggs in the prepared stain. So if you are having people over for Easter why not try staining red eggs rather than using plastic eggs or food coloring.

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6 thoughts on “Red Easter Eggs

  1. Χριστός Ανέστη! I’ve actually only heard a similar version to the latter. Mary Magdalene has always been my girl, way before the DaVinci Code!!

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