The annual hunt for hidden eggs has become a popular spring activity in many cultures around the world. Popularized by Abraham Lincoln in the late 1800s, Easter egg hunts are now anticipated each year by children all across the globe. However, many people are unaware of just how ancient this tradition truly is.
The Ancient Origins of the Easter Egg Hunt
Egg hunting, in some form or another, has existed for at least 2,000 years. Hunting for hidden eggs in the spring was a common practice in Asia and India. It was symbolic of the belief that we are all responsible for our own actions, and that each of us must find a way to renew our own life. The egg was seen as representing reincarnation, so the annual egg hunt was a time to reflect on our own inner balance and decide how best to improve our position in the next life.
The egg hunt also had a deeper meaning, particularly in the East. Searching for eggs was a symbolic representation of the soul’s eternal quest for renewed life. It was thought that the soul might have the opportunity to perfect itself, and so reach the ultimate goal — union with the divine.
Both Germany and Scandinavia had their own egg traditions. Eggs were offered to the Goddess in exchange for blessings or wishes. As Christianity gained power, and Pagan practices were declared illegal, these egg offerings had to be hidden so that the authorities could not find them. An ‘egg hunt’ ensued as those in power sought to find these eggs. This eventually became a game for children.
Historic Egg Hunts in the United States
It was First Lady Dolley Madison who hosted the first ‘egg roll’ on the lawn of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. She did this in 1812 in an attempt to garner support for her unpopular husband, President James Madison.
In 1862, while the horrendous Civil War was ravaging the South, President Abraham Lincoln tapped into the ancient and archetypal symbol of the egg, a real-life representation of new life and hope. He ordered decorated eggs and festive treats to be hidden on the White House lawn. President Lincoln then invited the children of Washington, D.C. to come and search them out on Easter morning. This practice has been upheld by most American presidents, and the tradition was quickly picked up my the rest of the nation.
Egg hunts, with the Easter Bunny, are an ancient and respected practice that was been adopted by many different religions and cultures around the world. Today, many Wiccans and Pagans enjoy the practice of the egg hunt each and every year around the time of the Spring Equinox.
Welcome to the Order of the Sacred Star! This Pagan/Wiccan group, based in Winnipeg, Canada, is committed to teaching the Craft to all those who wish to learn. Our goal is to provide a complete and fulfulling learning experience. Our public classes are offered through the Winnipeg Pagan Teaching Circle.