Religious or not, you probably know the story: Jesus Christ died for our sins, was buried in a tomb, and rose from the dead three days later. This weekend we celebrate that story – Jesus is crucified on Good Friday, and rises again on Easter Sunday. But what you probably don’t know is why we eat Easter eggs to celebrate this story. Surprisingly, the answer is a 1,700-year old marketing campaign.
The symbolism of the egg
All great brands need a logo – and Easter’s is the egg. The egg is a symbol of rebirth, fertility, and new life that has been popular around the world for thousands of years. In ancient Hindu scriptures, the “golden egg” is even depicted as the source of creation. Similar symbolism can be found in pagan religions across Europe and elsewhere. But how did it find its way into Christianity?
In 325 AD, Emperor Constantine brought Christian leaders together for the First Council of Nicaea. The topics under discussion were many, but the interesting one for us is that church leaders used this get together to decide exactly when Easter should fall. They picked the Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox. But why?
Early church leaders – marketing gurus?
Early Christianity spread to Europe with the Roman Empire, where it was in competition with pre-existing pagan religious traditions that were already well established. How could this ambitious new start-up displace these spiritual monopolies? The first thing to do was to co-opt their holidays and symbolism. By placing its rebirth story on the same dates as the traditions it was seeking to replace, Christianity massively reduced the learning curve new converts would have to undergo. And by adopting paganism’s logos, it was making the new seem familiar.
Easter eggs today
Easter, which takes its name from the Assyrian and Babylonian goddess Ishtar, is best known for its chocolate eggs (along, perhaps, with the long-eared fellow that delivers them). Christianity added a new layer of symbolism to the egg, conflating it with the boulder rolled aside from Jesus’ tomb. The traditional symbol of fertility and spring evolved to become a logo for Christ’s resurrection.
At some point hundreds of years ago, the tradition of gifting each other eggs at Easter began. And in 1873, British chocolatiers JS Fry & Sons created the first hollow chocolate egg. 2 years later, John Cadbury “borrowed” the idea, and his company eventually started producing them on a wide scale. You might say they went viral.
At Kiss, we don’t claim that we can brand your religion and gain you billions of followers around the globe. But if you’re looking for similar success on a smaller (and more secular) scale, give us a call on 01675 446101. As you’re tucking in to your Easter egg this year, there’s no better time to contemplate a rebirth for your business.