History of the Egg Hunt


Olivia Buckel, Senior Editor-in-Chief

While Easter is the most important holiday for Christians, one of its biggest traditions is the Easter egg hunt. Ironically, the history of the Easter egg hunt actually has nothing to do with Christianity.

According to englishheritage.org, the custom of the Easter egg hunt comes from Germany. Some suggest that its origins actually date back to the late 16th century. When Protestant reformer Martin Luther organized egg hunts for his congregation, the men would hide eggs for the women and children to find. This in itself was a nod to the story of the resurrection in which Jesus’ tomb was discovered by the women.

The link between eggs and rabbits, however, dates back to before Central Europe. Rabbits were traditionally associated with fertility in women as well as the Virgin Mary, so much so that they even appear in some paintings of Mary and baby Jesus. This generally positive attitude around rabbits and hares brought on the story that a hare would bring a basket of brightly painted eggs for all the children who had been good that year, similar to Santa Claus; however, these eggs would be hidden around the house and garden for the children to find.

This story began to get so popular that the future Queen Victoria would go for Easter egg hunts in Kensington Palace. These were put on by her mother, who was German-born, and her father was the one to hide the eggs. Victoria enjoyed this tradition very much, writing in her journals, “After breakfast, the children, as usual on this day, looked for Easter eggs.”

It is speculated that the eggs were most likely hard-boiled and decorated. Two techniques at the time to color the eggs was to boil them in onion skins or to wrap the egg in gorse flowers before boiling.

Though the egg hunt had its origins in Central Europe, Britain had its own egg-related Easter traditions. In the northern parts of England and Scotland, the custom of de trapping eggs and giving them as presents, or using them to decorate the home, goes back many centuries. This was known as “pace-egging” from the Latin word for Easter, pascha.

The tradition of Easter egg hunts became more popular in mainstream England in the early 20th century. Family life started becoming more of a priority, and families had more disposable income. Since the mid-20th century, confectionary companies such as Fry’s and Cadbury’s have used the popularity of Easter egg hunts to promote their products. This has created the tradition of Easter egg hunts that we know and love today.