Easter eggs are special eggs that are often given to celebrate Easter or springtime. As such, Easter eggs are common during the season of Eastertide. In Christianity, they symbolize the empty tomb of Jesus.: though an egg appears to be like the stone of a tomb, a bird hatches from it with life; similarly, the Easter egg, for Christians, is a reminder that Jesus rose from the grave, and that those who believe will also experience eternal life.
Eggs, in general, were a traditional symbol of fertility, and rebirth, pre-dating Christian traditions. The practice of decorating eggshell is ancient. Ostrich eggs with engraved decoration that are 60,000 years old have been found in Africa. Decorated ostrich eggs, and representations of ostrich eggs in gold and silver, were commonly placed in graves of the ancient Sumerians and Egyptians as early as 5,000 years ago.
In particular, the custom of the Easter egg originated amongst the early Christians of Mesopotamia, who stained eggs red in memory of the blood of Christ, shed at his crucifixion. The Christian Church officially adopted the custom, regarding the eggs as a symbol of the resurrection; in A.D. 1610, Pope Paul V proclaimed the following prayer:Although the tradition is to use dyed or painted chicken eggs, a modern custom is to substitute chocolate eggs, or plastic eggs filled with confectionery such as jelly beans. These eggs can be hidden for children to find on Easter morning, which may be left by the Easter Bunny. They may also be put in a basket filled with real or artificial straw to resemble a bird's nest.
An egg hunt is a game during which decorated eggs, real hard-boiled ones or artificial ones filled with, or made of chocolate candies, of various sizes, are hidden for children to find, both indoors and outdoors.
When the hunt is over, prizes may be given for the largest number of eggs collected, or for the largest or the smallest egg.
Real eggs may further be used in egg tapping contests.
In the North of England, at Eastertime, a traditional game is played where hard boiled pace eggs are distributed and each player hits the other player's egg with their own. This is known as "egg tapping", "egg dumping" or "egg jarping". The winner is the holder of the last intact egg. The losers get to eat their eggs. The annual egg jarping world championship is held every year over Easter in Peterlee Cricket Club. It is also practiced in Bulgaria, Hungary, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Lebanon, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, and other countries. They call it tucanje[who?]. In parts of Austria, Bavaria and German-speaking Switzerland it is called Ostereiertitschen or Eierpecken. In parts of Europe it is also called epper, presumably from the German name Opfer, meaning "offering" and in Greece it is known as tsougrisma. In South Louisiana this practice is called Pocking Eggs and is slightly different. The Louisiana Creoles hold that the winner eats the eggs of the losers in each round.
The central European Slavic nations (Czechs and Slovaks etc.) have a tradition of gathering eggs by gaining them from the females in return of whipping them with a pony-tail shaped whip made out of fresh willow branches and splashing them with water, by the Ruthenians called polivanja, which is supposed to give them health and beauty.
Egg rolling is also a traditional Easter egg game played with eggs at Easter. In the United Kingdom, Germany, and other countries children traditionally rolled eggs down hillsides at Easter. This tradition was taken to the New World by European settlers, and continues to this day each Easter on the White House lawn.
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