The following ode to the beloved Easter egg is taken from an article in the April 24th edition of Time Magazine written by Olivia B. Waxman:
To look for the beginnings of the Easter egg, start in medieval Europe. One possible origin: the strict fasting rules of the time, which barred eating any animal product during Lent. Hens, however, kept laying anyway. So Christians would hard-boil and store their eggs for later, according to Henry Kelly, a professor of medieval studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. Some of those eggs would be given to the poor, and villagers brought them as Easter gifts to their manorial lords. Eggs could also be brought to church as a Good Friday offering.
Decorating them began in Britain around 1290, at which point the household of Edward I bought 450 eggs to be colored or covered in gold leaf to be distributed, according to The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain by Ronald Hutton. And the tradition wasn’t confined to royals, as colored eggs made flashier gifts between commoners.
As new ideas about middle-class family life formed in Europe and the U.S. in the late 1800s, religious holidays came to incorporate rituals for children. Easter eggs were a natural fit. Soon enough they were dyed, hidden and hunted by kids all over the place, including at the White House, which held its first Easter Egg Roll in 1878.