A look at the history and little-known facts about this holiday tradition
1. They predate Christianity (in a way). Obviously, they weren't associated with Easter then, but decorated eggs as much as 60,000 years old have been found in Africa. As traditions go, most point to 3000 B.C. in Persia, where eggs dyed red were given as gifts in celebration of the first day of spring.
2. The practice of giving Easter eggs — dyed red to symbolize the blood of Christ — developed into a Christian tradition, with the hatching of an egg symbolizing the resurrection. The Easter egg is also a byproduct of Lent, as many families would give up eggs during those fast days, which ended with Easter.
3. Before those little dissolvable capsules, egg dyes were made from a variety of materials, including onion peels, tree bark, flower petals, and vegetable and fruit juices.
4. The PAAS Dye Co. launched its popular product in the 1880s in Newark, N.J. The first packets contained five colors for 5 cents. The company now claims to sell more than 10 million kits annually (no longer just dyes, but also paints, stickers, glitter and more) and says that consumers use them to decorate 180 million eggs.
5. In some European countries, a Halloween-like tradition still exists in which children go from house to house to collect eggs.
6. The White House Easter Egg Roll, an annual tradition on the Monday after Easter, is the only time that tourists are allowed to gather on the White House lawn. The tradition actually started on the lawn of the Capitol, by Dolly Madison in the early 1800s, and was moved to the White House in 1878, when Rutherford B. Hayes was president. About 4,000 children participate in the event today.
7. Many Easter eggs aren't actually eggs but are formed from chocolate. In Scotland, a popular treat sold in fish-and-chips shops is deep-fried chocolate eggs.
8. The most valuable Easter eggs are the jewel-encrusted Fabergé eggs, crafted in the late 1800s and early 1900s as Easter gifts for the families of Russian czars. Only 65 were known to have been made. They are worth millions of dollars.
9. The world's largest Easter egg, as recognized by Guinness World Records, was made of chocolate in 2005 in Belgium (where else?) and weighed 1,200 kilograms (more than 2,600 pounds).
10. "Easter eggs" are found in numerous videogames and movies. That's a term for an inside joke or hidden message planted by the creator. The term was coined atAtari after a programmer put his name in a hidden room in the game Adventure, released in 1979.