Well, the truth is that we don’t know!
Eggs are regarded as a symbol of resurrection because they hold the seed of life within. The Egyptians and Greeks used to decorate eggs with different colors, and then eat them as part of their spring celebrations. Another ancient festival that used eggs is the Jewish Passover (also celebrated in the spring), during which it was customary to offer a hard-boiled egg dipped in salt water as a sacrifice to the temple in Jerusalem. Persians used to paint eggs during the Nowrooz (New Year) celebration in the springtime.
The tradition of decorating eggs as a part of the celebrations of Easter goes back some time, but with different meanings. For example, in Greece the eggs were colored crimson to honor the blood of Christ, while in Russia some people decorated hollow eggs with pictures of Christ or other religious designs.
There are a lot of stories and legends that explain these long-held customs, and one of the most endearing is the legend of Simon of Cyrene and his connection to the Easter egg.
In this story, we encounter Jesus after his trial in front of Pontius Pilate. He has been condemned to death and is carrying the heavy cross, the instrument of execution, through the city streets and all the way to Golgotha.
All three of the synoptic Gospels tell the same story: that as Jesus emerged from the city, the Roman soldiers saw a man named Simon, from Cyrene in Libya, and they grabbed him and compelled him to help Jesus with his cross.
We don’t know if Simon offered to help, or if he was forced to do so. We know little about him, in fact; but we know that for a small part of the route to the crucifixion, it was Simon who carried the cross.
In the legend, Simon was an egg merchant who had come to Jerusalem to sell his eggs. He helped Jesus carry his cross, and this encounter changed Simon’s life. He vowed to become a follower of Jesus, and when he returned from the place of execution to reclaim his basket of eggs, he saw that they had magically become multi-colored.
So that’s one possibility for why we color eggs at Easter: to remember the man who helped Jesus and went on to convert many people to become believers.
Pauline Books & Media has a charming book for children that tells this story: Simon of Cyrene and the Legend of the Easter Egg. Why not order your copy today and share this lovely tale with the children in your life?
Legend tells us that Simon of Cyrene, the man who helped Jesus carry his cross up to Calvary, was an egg merchant. Passing by on his way to market, Simon is stopped by Roman soldiers and ordered to help Jesus carry his cross to Calvary. Three days later, Simon rejoices when he sees that not only has Jesus risen from the dead but his eggs have been transformed into a colorful new gift from Jesus-the first Easter eggs!
For children ages 4 to 7.