Easter eggs (or spring eggs) are eggs used to celebrate the Easter/spring holiday. The eggs are often decorated and are used in egg-rolling (a race where children push the egg across grass using a spoon) and egg hunts (where the eggs are hidden). Both egg-rolling and egg hunts are old European traditions and were described in Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly for April 1884:
“Egg-hunting is a sport in Alsace, where youth go from house to house, hunting for eggs and seizing them despite the protests of housewives and the cackling hens. Egg-rolling down a grassy slope for rustics to scramble for, is a German custom.”
“Spring” has often been used for “Easter” to take religion out of the events. “Spring egg hunt” began to replace “Easter egg hunt” by at least 1980. Columnist John Leo wrote in 1995, “And ‘hunt’ had to substitute for ‘roll’ because people would show up for a ‘Spring Egg Roll’ expecting to be fed Chinese appetizers.” The use of “Spring” to replace “Easter” is frequently a subject of political debates.
Wikipedia: Easter egg
Easter eggs or spring eggs are special eggs that are often given to celebrate Easter or springtime.
The egg is a pagan symbol of the rebirth of the Earth in celebrations of spring and was adopted by early Christians as a symbol of the resurrection of Jesus.
The oldest tradition is to use dyed or painted chicken eggs, but a modern custom is to substitute chocolate eggs, or plastic eggs filled with confectionery such as jelly beans. These eggs are often hidden, allegedly by the Easter Bunny, for children to find on Easter morning. Otherwise, they are generally put in a basket filled with real or artificial straw to resemble a bird’s nest.
Wikipedia: Egg rolling
Egg rolling, or an Easter egg roll is a traditional game played with eggs at Easter. Different nations have different versions of the game, usually played with hard-boiled, decorated eggs.
The pre-Christian Saxons had a spring goddess Eostre, whose feast was held on the Vernal Equinox, around 21 March. Her animal was the spring hare, and the rebirth of the land in spring was symbolised by the egg. Pope Gregory the Great ordered his missionaries to use old religious sites and festivals and absorb them into Christian rituals where possible. The Christian celebration of the Resurrection of Christ was ideally suited to be merged with the Pagan feast of Eostre and many of the traditions were adopted into the Christian festivities. In England, Germany and other countries children traditionally rolled eggs down hillsides at Easter and it is thought that this may have become symbolic of the rolling away of the rock from Jesus Christ’s tomb before his resurrection. This tradition, along with others such as the Easter Bunny, were taken to the New World by European settlers.
In the United States, the Easter Egg Roll is an annual event, and is held on the White House lawn each Easter Monday for children and their parents.
The Egg Roll itself is a race, where children push an egg through the grass with a long-handled spoon. Surrounding events include appearances by White House personalities in Easter Bunny costumes, speeches and book-reading by Cabinet secretaries, and exhibits of artistically-decorated eggs.
According to an undocumented tradition, Dolley Madison, the wife of President James Madison, began the event in 1814 and hundreds of children brought their decorated eggs to join in games. The original site was on the grounds of the United States Capitol, but in 1877 a new lawn was planted and the gardeners cancelled the event. Congress then passed a law making it illegal to use the grounds as a children’s playground. At the request of a number of children, including his own, the then President Rutherford B. Hayes and his wife Lucy Hayes brought the event to the White House lawns.
(Oxford English Dictionary)
Easter egg, n.
Traditionally: an egg, usually blown or hard-boiled and with a brightly dyed or painted shell, used as an Easter decoration or given as an Easter gift (cf. pace egg n.); (also) an egg-shaped wooden, porcelain, or jewelled trinket similarly given at Easter (cf. Russian Easter egg n. at Russian n. and adj. Special uses 5). Later also: a hollow or solid egg-shaped chocolate confection given at Easter (now the usual sense outside the United States).
1737 tr. C. de Bruyn Trav. into Muscovy I. 31/2 They then begin to give Easter eggs, which continues for a fortnight, a custom as well among the great as the small, the old as the young, who mutually make each other presents of them.
1772 tr. Antidote 199 The custom of giving eggs is only among the common people; and that not alone in Russia, but in Germany, and many other countries, where every one undeniably has heard of Easter eggs.
1804 M. Wilmot Let. 11 May in M. Wilmot & C. Wilmot Russ. Jrnls. (1934) i. 97, I must not forget Easter Sunday.‥ The service is the same, and after it is over Easter Eggs are presented painted and carv’d and decorated in a variety of ways.
Easter egg hunt n. orig. U.S. a children’s game in which the participants search for hidden Easter eggs; (in extended use) an act of hiding items for others to find; a search for something that has been hidden with the intention of its being found.
1891 Denton (Maryland) Jrnl. 11 Apr. 3/3 An *Easter egg hunt by the Sunday School of Christ Church took place‥on Monday.‥ The children‥went home laden with the pretty, colored eggs they had found.
1926 T. Roosevelt & K. Roosevelt East of Sun x. 248 Occasionally we hid our lesser belongings as a sort of Easter-egg hunt for the inhabitants of some village where we had spent the night.
April 1884, Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly, “Some Easter Customs” by Charles Von Sas, pg. 430, col. 2:
Egg-hunting is a sport in Alsace, where youth go from house to house, hunting for eggs and seizing them despite the protests of housewives and the cackling hens. Egg-rolling down a grassy slope for rustics to scramble for, is a German custom.
27 April 1886, National Republican (Washington, DC), pg. 3, col. 3:
EGG-ROLLING IN THE PARKS.
How the Children Enjoyed the Sport
and Captured the President.
In no other city of the country is the practice of egg-rolling so popular as it is to this city. It has become, in fact, a universal celebration, and that it is a pleasant one is attested by the large crowds of children who went up to the white house yesterday. There were over 3,000 little and big children scattered through the grounds of the mansion at one time yesterday, most of them were of tender age, but there were some whose claim to being of the egg-rolling age antedated yesterday by several years. (...) The crowd was the most orderly that has been seen at an Easter egg-rolling for some years, and the sport was given up to the children and heartily enjoyed.
By Eliza M. Lavin
New York, NY: Butterick Publishing Company, Limited
If the festivity in prospect be a Christmas tree or an Easter-egg hunt or other special occasion, the sheet may be embellished with a colored egg, a tiny tree or any other appropriate symbol.
24 May 1890, Marshall (MI) Daily Chronicle, pg. 1, col. 3:
Hunting Eggs in Germany.
In the court news of the first Easter holiday was the announcement: “After breakfast the emperor and empress went out to Bellevue to hunt Easter eggs.” This egg hunting was accompanied with some curious and interesting scenes. The general field marshal, Count Moltko, had been invited by the emperor to take part in the sport, and appeared in the afternoon at Castle Bellevue with a big basket of colored eggs. The emperor and empress and the old field marshal hid the eggs, and then folowed the little princes about in the shurbbery to watch them capture the gay prizes. That lasted three-quarters of an hour. (...) Berliner Boersen-Courier.
19 April 1962, Neosho (MO) Daily News, pg. 1, cols 1-2:
Final Preparations Under Way For
Annual Big Spring Egg Hunt
Members of the Teen Town Council and the Neosho Junior Chamber of Commerce will meet at 7 tonight at the CRC to sack candy for the annual Easter Egg Hunt at Big Spring Park, co-sponsored by the two organizations.
Google News Archive
19 March 1980, Milwaukee (WI) Journal, pg. 4, col. 2:
Spring egg hunt
set at Children’s Zoo
A spring egg hunt for children 5 through 10 will be held March 29 in the Children’s Zoo at the Milwaukee County Zoo.
16 January 1985, Rio Rancho (NM) Observer, “City of Rio Rancho Offers Wide Variety of Programs,” pg. A8, col. 3:
Razzle-Dazzle Spring Egg Hunt
Google News Archive
15 August 1995, The Item (Sumter, SC), “A brave new vocabulary is marginalizing our language” by John Leo, pg. 6A, col. 3:
The name of the annual Easter Egg Roll at the Bronx Botanical Garden was changed to the Spring Egg Hunt. The obvious aim was to remove the religious reference. And “hunt” had to substitute for “roll” because people would show up for a “Spring Egg Roll” expecting to be fed Chinese appetizers.
The Easter Egg Haunt
By Tom B. Stone
New York, NY: Bantam Books
“This year, we at Graveyard School are going to hold our very own Easter egg hunt, or spring egg hunt, if you like.”
The Right To Be Wrong:
Ending the culture war over religion in America
By Kevin James Hasson
San Francisco, CA: Encounter Books
And, until nearly everyone laughed at it, the public library in Arlington, Virginia, had replaced its annual Easter Egg Hunt with a “Spring Egg Roll.”
Google News Archive
14 April 2006, Hollis Brookline (NH) Journal, “Hippity. hoppity. something or other’s on its way, I guess” by Michael Cleveland, pg. 4, col. 4:
Calling an Easter Egg Hunt a Spring Egg Hunt, as Milford has opted to do despite the fact that the hunt is being held the day prior to Easter and that what will be hunted are clearly Easter eggs, falls under Prong 1, as does calling a Christmas tree a holiday tree. It’s pretense.
North County Times (CA)
Some cities keep ‘Easter’ in egg hunt
By: NOELLE IBRAHIM - Staff Writer North County Times - The Californian
Posted: Friday, April 6, 2007 12:00 am
NORTH COUNTY - Children across the region will scramble for plastic colored eggs this weekend during city-sponsored egg hunts, but it’s a toss up as to whether they’ll be greeted by the Easter Bunny or Peter Cottontail.
North County cities are as scattered as the colorful eggs when it comes to how they promote their spring festivities. Some, such as Encinitas, call the race an Easter Egg Hunt, a nonreligious tradition that has long accompanied the Christian holiday. Others, such as Escondido, have told the Easter Bunny to hit the bunny trail, making way for a more inclusive generic spring event called a Holiday Egg Hunt.
In San Marcos, the annual event is promoted as both a “holiday,” and an Easter event, and Peter Cottontail pays a visit.
The emergence of spring or holiday egg hunts in recent years stems from a philosophy of making the public-sponsored events more neutral, so individuals or groups that aren’t Christian don’t feel out of place, some city officials said this week.
News-Herald (Northern Ohio)
Munson Township’s plan for ‘spring egg roll’ generates national backlash
Published: Thursday, March 31, 2011
By Rachel Jackson
A seemingly straightforward attempt to create a community event has had unforeseen consequences for Munson Township trustees.
They, together with the park board, created the township’s first egg hunt and named it a “spring egg hunt.”
That name caused a backlash that sent the story national, with various websites reporting the name represents a change from a long-established tradition and likening it to the push to “take ‘Christ’ out of ‘Christmas’.”