By Melissa Locker
March 04, 2020
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Eggs play an important role on Easter Sunday. Kids love hunting for them or eating chocolate or marshmallow or caramel versions of the eggs. But they also have an important religious meaning in the holiday. Traditionally the egg is seen by Christians as a symbol of life, resurrection, and rebirth—a hard shell holding a new life within. In the Greek Orthodox religion, it isn't a proper Easter celebration without eggs that have been dyed a deep, dark, vibrant red.

The exact meaning behind the eggs varies depending on who you ask. Some Greek Orthodox believers say that Mary Magdalene was bringing some cooked eggs to share with the others holding vigil at the tomb of Jesus. When they realized that Christ had risen, the eggs in her basket miraculously turned bright red, according to The Greek Reporter. Others say that when Mary Magdalene went to spread the word of his resurrection to the Emperor of Rome, he told her, “Christ has no more risen than that egg is red.” The egg immediately turned red to prove the Emperor wrong.

Whatever the origin of the story, these days to mark the occasion, Easter eggs are dyed red to represent the blood of Christ, the shell symbolizes the tomb, and the eggs are cracked to show his resurrection from the dead. Many celebrants of Greek Easter play a game called tsougrisma where two players hold red eggs (kokkina avga), taking turns tapping or clinking the other’s egg and trying to crack their opponent’s egg while leaving their egg whole. While cracking the eggs, one person says, "Christos Anesti" (Christ has risen!), while the other person says, "Alithos Anesti" (Indeed he has risen!), symbolizing Christ’s emergence from the tomb. It is believed that the winner will have good luck during the year.

Traditionally, eggs are dyed on Holy Thursday and saved for Easter Sunday. The red eggs aren’t handed out by the Easter Bunny, though. Instead they are baked into a traditional Easter bread called a tsoureki, which has three-braids meant to signify the Holy Trinity, or used as table decorations.

Want to try making your own red eggs for Easter? While traditionally the eggs were turned red with onion skins (there’s a recipe for that here), these days it’s both acceptable and easier to use packets of dye. When working with dye or food coloring, be sure to use bowls and spoons made from nonporous material. Stainless steel and glass are great options.  Here’s how to make brilliantly red eggs:

What You'll Need

  • One dozen hard-boiled eggs
  • 1-ounce red food coloring or one sachet of Greek red food dye
  • Six cups warm water
  • 3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • Oil for polishing (optional)

How-To

Step 1: Combine dye or food coloring, six cups of warm water, and the vinegar in a glass jug or bowl and stir well. If you're using dye, make sure it dissolves completely.

Step 2: Carefully submerge each egg into the water. Let stand until deep red, about 2 hours. Lightly rinse eggs under running water and allow to dry on a paper towel-lined plate.

Step 3: If you want the eggs to have a shiny finish, polish the eggs with paper cloth and vegetable oil.