Tag Archives: Easter Eggs

Greek Red Egg Cracking on Easter


I have a Greek friend whose family still practices lots of older Greek folk traditions. One of these is an Easter tradition involving eggs that are dyed red. Everyone takes one and they begin smashing them against each other, two at a time. Typically, when two eggs meet, only one of them cracks. The person whose egg is left untarnished is said to have good luck for the rest of the year! It’s almost like a competition or a game, and my friend told me there’s some strategy to it, since you can use either side of the egg to hit someone else’s.


My friend doesn’t really believe in the superstitious aspects of Greek traditions, even if his mother and extended family do. He does, however, enjoy participating because some Greek traditions are very fun, like this one. My friend didn’t really know the significance of the eggs cracking or why they were painted red. We had to do some research to find out that the cracking of an egg symbolizes Jesus’ opening of the tomb he was buried in, and the red dye is to symbolize Jesus’ blood shed on the cross. He told me that his grandma definitely knew about this but had not discussed it to him as a child, probably because of its grotesque nature. For my friend’s Greek family, the tradition has a significance greater than its religious one because it brings the family together for the holiday.


I did some more research on my own and found out that some people attribute the egg tradition to Mary Magdalene, whose cooked eggs miraculously turned vibrant red when she witnessed Jesus rising from the grave. Easter egg painting has remained a tradition across Europe and into the Americas. In America, where religious tradition has become remarkably secular, Easter egg painting has become a simple activity to entertain kids on the holiday. In my friend’s family, however, I believe the intention was to teach children about important religious stories and celebrations. Painting eggs red and cracking them is an easy way to remember what happened when Jesus rose from the dead. My friend may have been too young for the lesson to be taught, but he did know his grandma to be a teacher of religious stories to her chidlren and grandchildren.

Greek Egg-Breaking Easter Ritual

Text: “So every Easter, the day before we will dye hard boil eggs and everyone will have an egg and on Easter we will go around and one person will try to crack a side of your egg. and you’ve got two chances So you go in a circle until everyone has broken both sides and one person has at least one good side left. So yeah. And then they win.”

Informant is a freshman at the University of Southern California studying Psychology, originally from Palos Verdes, CA from Greek-Jewish descent. We speak in the dining hall, and she is very excited and happy to be recounting her experiences.

“It’s epic and it’s fun and you get to do something with your dyed eggs. I don’t know, you know. It was just something my parents, I guess we were doing. We do it on both sides of the family. But I believe it’s like a Greek thing, and I have heard of at least one other person who does this. Well, I never win, so you know, like I, I enjoy it because it’s something our family does every year. It’s a way to use the eggs. You know, it’s fun to color eggs and stuff. So like then you get to actually like play a game with it.”

Analysis: This tradition is an example of a ritual performed in celebration of a holiday. The term “Easter” comes from the name of a pagan goddess and symbolizes new life and fertility. The ritual furthers this symbolism with eggs also being reminiscent of reproduction and fertility. The bright colors which they were being dyed are representative of the season of spring and the blooming of colorful nature. Although Easter is now largely recognized as a Christian holiday, rituals such as these have little relation to the biblical story of Jesus Christ. This ritual could be argued to be an example of ritual license because of how the eggs are dyed and played with which are activities usually discouraged when they relate to food items.

Simnel Cake or Judas doesn’t get a marzipan egg for Easter

S is 54, he lived in England where his mother is from for the first ten years of his life before his family moved to California. He is soft spoken and pauses thoughtfully while speaking. He told me about this Easter tradition of a cake his mother used to bake.

“And then this is something my mom did… I’ve never heard it done anywhere else… for Easter she would bake a cake and make eleven marzipan eggs and put them on top of it… and it represented each of the disciples… except for Judas (laughs). I think it was a white cake… or I think a plain yellow… we always went outside and took an Easter picture with one of us five kids holding the cake.”

When I researched this, I found that this is a traditional cake known as a Simnel Cake. This tradition goes back to medieval times and started out as something more like bread than cake. Simnel comes from the Latin Simila – a fine white flour. In the 17th and 18th centuries it was something more like pudding. It wasn’t until the 19th century that it became recognizable as cake and the marzipan eggs don’t appear until the 20th century. It is described as a fruit cake, but lighter than the traditional Christmas version. S didn’t mention fruit in the one his mom used to make, but the white cake would have been in line with the original use of fine white flour. For more information and a recipe please see https://britishfoodhistory.com/2018/03/19/simnel-cake/

Easter egg game (Maseehh kom) – Arabic Folk Game


She learned this game from her family when she was around two years old, in Egypt. She said that the reason they commemorate Jesus’s resurrection with cracking eggs is because Jesus emerged from the tomb like a chick emerging from an egg.


This game requires two people (P1 and P2), each with a hard-boiled Easter egg.

P1 holds their egg above P2’s egg, and both of the tops are exposed and facing each other. P1 says “Maseehh kom” (“Messiah has risen”), and P2 says “Hakan kom” (“Indeed risen”). P1 then slams their egg’s top into P2’s egg’s top. Whoever’s egg is not broken is the winner of that round.

P2 then holds their egg above P1’s egg, and both of the bottoms are exposed and facing each other. P2 says “Maseehh kom,” and P1 says “Hakan kom.” P2 then slams their egg’s bottom into P1’s egg’s bottom. Whoever’s egg is not broken is the winner of that round.

If there is a tie at the end, they repeat the game with new eggs.

(I added the P1 and P2 distinctions, as well as the translations, to the original explanation for the sake of clarity)


I remember learning this game from my parents when I was a kid, and I think that it is a clever way to celebrate the Resurrection with the prominent tradition of Easter eggs. We would first play it in the household, then again when we would meet with the whole family later that Sunday (pre-COVID). Each time we played it, it was in a tournament style: each person would choose a colored egg from a container full of them, and would face off in brackets. Not only was it a way to remember that “Maseehh kom,” but it was a way to bring the family closer together (very important to Arabs).

For other games associated with Easter eggs, see the following excerpt: Newall, Venetia. “Easter Eggs.” The Journal of American Folklore, vol. 80, no. 315, 1967, pp.27-28. https://doi.org/10.2307/538415.

Eggs – Persian New Year

Description of Informant

PK (79) is a small, frail woman with dyed blonde hair and piercing eyes. PK was born and raised in Abadan, Iran in an “Oil Company Family.” OCFs were families whose primary income came from the large British oil company in Iran. They were well compensated and taken care of, living in western-style homes in protected communities. Many OCFs were secular or subscribed to a western religion in favor of Islam. PK immigrated to England in 1976 before coming to America (California) in 1978.


Context of Interview

The informant, PK, is cooking a traditional Persian stew (khoresh) while describing the custom to the collector, BK, her grandson. Text spoken in Farsi is translated and italicized.


PK: The one thing is, for the haft seen, we always boil the eggs for the number of people in the house. And after the… new year starts, the new year starts, we all… there are sweets, we eat sweets. One by one we eat eggs…

BK: Do you eat the egg for the haft seen or do you make a new egg?

PK: No, we make it— we eat the egg we made for the haft seen, because you cannot keep the egg, you know, the fresh boiling egg for 13 years [days] on the table! You just eat it, you know, it’s a custom. Because there’s no sin in it, but there’s some other meaning. Like rice. There’s some other meaning.

BK: What’s the meaning of the egg?

PK: Egg is like… lots of kids, for example.

BK: Like fertility?

PK: Yeah fertility for… kids.

BK: Why does it mean that?

PK: It means, for your home to always be full. You know? Iranians like for the family to be big and the home to be full. It’s these days that people don’t have kids or only have 1-2 kids, or none. But those days it was like that.

PK: We didn’t color it either. Just like that, white. But now everything is different.

BK: Why do people color their eggs now?

PK: These days it’s just showing off… vanity play. Back then, nobody colored their eggs. We boiled it and put it on the table. Now here [America] when you look at a haft seen table, it’s like a wedding table! It’s a lot different. For pictures, for sending [pictures], for parties, and this should be prettier than that and vice versa. In the old days [when your father was young] when I’d set up a haft seen I did a lot of work, but slowly over time I got sick of it.

BK: But when you were in Iran—

PK: It’s a simple sofre [table]. Whatever is needed.

BK: Why do you eat the egg? Because I never ate them growing up.

PK: Well here you keep the eggs [sitting on the table] for 13 days. In Iran, we wouldn’t keep the eggs out. We’d leave the sabzeeh [greens] and sheereeny [sweets] out. They didn’t have any cream. Like chickpeas, this type of thing. Those would sit out for 13 days, then you pack it up and toss the sabzeeh.

BK: So when do you make the eggs?

PK: That day. Right before new years, right before the haft seen [ritual]. Like one or two hours before the new year we’ll boil the egg, and right when the year changes we eat it. I don’t know why we eat it, but it doesn’t make sense to keep an egg. So we’d just eat it. I don’t think there’s any significant meaning. We didn’t want to waste it, it would stink and go bad.

Collector’s Reflection

PK’s experience with Persian New Year Eggs is simple: an hour or so before the new year, the family will boil eggs (one for each member of the household). When the new year begins, the eggs are eaten. There is no decoration or display involved in the process. The eggs stand for fertility and prosperity in the new year (fertility being the common theme of eggs across cultures). This aligns with historic, pre-Western influence Persian New Year traditions.

PK is one of my grandmothers. My other, NV, is only 4 years younger than PK, and was born and raised in the same city/community in Iran as PK. Their families were even friends! Yet, NV’s family practiced eggs the way I always have growing up: the eggs were prepared in advance of the new year, decorated by the children, and displayed as part of the haft seen, a table decorated with symbolic objects for the new year. NV’s family is much more westernized than PK’s; they often summered/vacationed in Europe, while PK remained in Iran. The practice of decorating and displaying eggs, then, seems to have originated from the modernized Western practice of Easter Egg decoration. Since the “westernized” eggs sat out, they would be thrown away, not eaten. This goes against the core of Iranian philosophy: never waste food! It was absolutely criminal to throw things out. Leftovers, no matter how small, are always kept. The idea of “wasting” an egg would be insulting to more traditional members of society.