Red Easter Eggs


It is my understanding that in certain Eastern Orthodox traditions, on Easter Sunday, either at, during, or after the Divine Liturgy, “Easter Eggs” are handed out or exchanged. In particular, in the Greek Orthodox Church, it is a hen’s egg that has been hard boiled and dyed a particular color of red. What is the theological significance of the egg in this context? Is it a part of the Divine Liturgy of Easter Sunday? If so, when are they given and how?

I have attempted to obtain this information from other sources, but without success. Any information you can provide would be of assistance.


The distribution of colored eggs at the conclusion of Paschal services is a custom that is observed in some places. If I am correct, I think the custom is more common among the faithful of Greece than among the Slavic lands. And I have heard of this custom among some non-Orthodox as well. There is nothing in the service books of the Orthodox Church calling for the distribution of dyed eggs at the end of services. There is, however, a prayer for the blessing of eggs and cheese, as well as a prayer for the blessing of meat, on Holy Pascha. Many Orthodox, especially the Slavs, bring food to church on Holy Saturday or on Pascha, and this food is then blessed with these prayers.

While there are a number of explanations for the blessing of eggs—there is even a legend that St. Mary Magdalene, shortly after the resurrection, traveled to Rome and presented the Emperor with a red egg while exclaiming “Christ is risen”—no doubt the association of eggs with Pascha is derived from the fact that during the Great Fast the faithful refrain from eating meat, eggs, dairy products, fish, wine, and oil. Hence, these foods are eaten on Pascha to “break the Fast.”

As far as theological significance, there is, quite frankly, little. Explanations that eggs symbolize new life, or that the cracking of eggs symbolizes the shattering of Hades by the victorious Christ, are pious explanations, but are not theological statements or actions.

Within the Orthodox Church one will find a number of pious customs which are not universal among all Orthodox Christians. [For example, among the Greek speaking churches there is a custom of baking a special bread known as the “Vasilopita” on the Feast of St. Basil the Great, 1 January. This custom is not found among Slavic Orthodox.] Few references to such things are found in service books because they are not a part of the liturgical service proper but, rather, customs which express a particular aspect of the faith among a certain group of Orthodox Christians. Often, these customs are also found among non-Orthodox of the same region. [Example: Orthodox of the Carpathian region bring food baskets to church to be blessed. The Roman Catholics of the same region, as well as in Poland, Ukraine, and elsewhere, have the same custom. It is interesting to note that this rite is not found in the Roman service books.]