As so often with religious traditions, Easter eggs, and the Lenten abstaining from them, originates in very sensible (in this case rural) practicalities.
Easter in the Northern Hemisphere in which it originates is a Spring early harvest festival (effectively the Jewish Passover). The formula for Easter Sunday was set at the Council of Nicaea in 325. Passover falls on full moon (14 Nissan of the Jewish calendar) and so, in the early church, many Christians celebrated Christ's resurrection on that day – which could be any day of the week. At Nicaea there was agreement Easter Day needed to be always a Sunday. Easter Day would be celebrated on the first Sunday following the first ecclesiastical full moon (this is a calculated lunar cycle – sometimes not exactly equivalent to the astronomical reality) that occurs on or after March 21 (the day of the ecclesiastical vernal equinox). It follows Easter Day can fall as early as March 22 or at the latest on April 25.
Lent is the preceding period of forty days in preparation for Easter. The earliest possible date for Ash Wednesday (the start of Lent) is February 4 and the latest possible date for the start of Lent is March 10. The word "Lent" itself comes from the English word to lengthen – the days are lengthening. In some languages Lent means Spring (Dutch for instance calls Spring "Lente").
During Spring, farmers need to keep their eggs and not eat them in order to have enough hatch for chickens, ducks, etc. Here: do not eat eggs in Spring. Do not eat eggs in Lent.
In one of those fascinating liturgical ironies, this rule is made absolute – and its rational is forgotten. "No eggs in Lent" now becomes – all eggs must be eaten prior to Lent! And there we have the origin of Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras – French for fat Tuesday). On Shrove Tuesday all the eggs we have are ateen in pancakes: Pancake Tuesday.
Legend has it that in 1455 in Olney, 80 kilometers from London, a woman ran to the church service still carrying a pancake in a frying pan. She had been baking when she heard the church bell toll. A poem celebrates the event – still run in Olney and elsewhere today:
Run to the church with a frying pan,
Never you lose a minute!
Run to the church with a frying pan
and a yellow pancake in it.
First to carry her pancake there,
though heavy or light she beat it,
Must toss her cake to the Bellringer,
And the bellringer he must eat it.
Then be she a madam or be she a miss
All breathless after rushing,
The bellringer he will give her a kiss
And never mind her blushing!
Come Easter Sunday (with enough chickens and ducklings hatched!) And, once again we can begin eating eggs. Easter eggs!
Source by Bosco Peters