April 16, 2017

Symbols of the Sacred by Nina Faye Morey

What does the Easter miracle of the death and resurrection of Christ mean to me? Several symbols are commonly used to represent such Christian concepts. As a Christian writer, I regularly employ these symbols or “mental pictures.” Like Jesus’ parables, they help make religious messages and teachings easily understood and remembered by young and old alike.

As Easter approaches, I search the store shelves overflowing with candy Easter eggs, stuffed Easter bunnies, and Easter baskets for gifts for my grandchildren. Their greeting cards also depict these and other symbols commonly associated with the holiday. The verses celebrate the coming of spring and new life and wish them “Happy Easter.” I might find “religious” Easter cards for my significant adults, but it’s clear the Cross of Calvary faces stiff competition.

Easter Egg Basket & Lily

So what, if anything, do these curious Easter customs and symbols have to do with the death and resurrection of Christ? The truth is Easter didn’t originate with Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. Its only Biblical reference is a mistranslation of the word “Pascha,” which refers to the “Passover” (Acts 12:4 KJV). Our Easter observances are an eclectic mixture of ancient mythology and pagan practices that pre-date Christianity. The early Christian Church adapted many pagan symbols for rebirth, renewal, resurrection, and transformation, such as eggs and rabbits, from spring fertility festivals to explain Christ’s death and resurrection to new converts. Because of their pagan roots, some Christians reject these symbols and judge those who embrace them. However, the Christian church has long incorporated them to both conceal and reveal sacred truths.

This Easter I’m looking forward to painting some Easter eggs with my grandchildren. It’s a folk art that combines the pagan symbolism of the new life created in the egg with the Christian symbolism of the new life found in Christ. Since the egg holds the miraculous power of giving birth to new life, I’ll point out how this makes them an especially appropriate symbol of our Lord’s resurrection. I’ll reveal the special meaning of each colour; and how it’s believed that the more colours your Easter egg has, the greater its magical power. Red represents the life-giving blood Jesus shed on the cross so those who believe in Him could have eternal life. White stands for innocence and purity and symbolizes God’s forgiveness of our sins through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Green expresses our hope of life after death. Yellow depicts light, God, and love.

Egg-laying Easter Bunny

I’ll also describe the meaning of each pattern as we draw them on our eggs. My grandkids are already familiar with many Christian symbols, like crosses, doves, and suns. Fish symbols were secret signs used by early Christians because Jesus was the “fisher of men.” Triangles represent the Trinity. Dots depict the tears the Virgin Mary shed at the foot of the cross. Spirals symbolize the mysteries of life, death, and everlasting life. Borders, ribbons, and curls with no beginning or end are called eternity bands and illustrate infinity and immortality. According to legend, their coils draw in and trap evil spirits, so they offer protection from sin.

For Christians, Good Friday commemorates Christ’s death on the cross and burial in the tomb. Easter Sunday celebrates His miraculous resurrection and triumph over death that gives hope to His faithful followers. I’ll explain to my grandchildren how Easter eggs are powerful symbols of this Easter miracle. Their hard shells represent Christ’s sealed tomb. Cracking them open Easter morning portrays the divine mystery of Christ’s gift of new life to believers through His death and resurrection.

Illustration Credits:

Easter Basket & Lily © 2008 Nina Faye Morey
(Previously Published in Grainews, March 10, 2008)

Egg-Laying Easter Bunny © 2007 Nina Faye Morey
(Previously Published in Grainews, March 26, 2007)


  1. I love the way you've made these aspects of Easter into meaningful traditions that reflect Christ.

    1. Thank you, Tracy. Once I researched these Easter symbols and traditions, they took on a whole new meaning for me as I discovered how they have come to reflect our Christian celebration of the new life found in Christ.

  2. Thank you Nina. You give me a lot to contemplate on and be thankful for. There is great meaning in the symbols yet such amazing love found in our Saviour.
    Blessings on you and your family Nina!

    1. Thank you, Alan. While these Easter symbols and traditions may seem trivial to some, they represent Christ's great love for us in His willingness to die on the cross to save us from our sins and the promise of a new and everlasting life through His resurrection. Easter blessings!

  3. Thanks, Nina, for this summary of the Easter symbols, the meaning of colours, and, of course, the Easter story. I didn't know, or else I've forgotten, some of this information. Your blog can become a resource for all of us and it definitely adds good material for sharing with children. I hope you are having, or have just had, a wonderful Easter celebration with your family.

  4. I love sharing information about the symbolism behind our Christian traditions and celebrations, especially with children. That's something I missed out on to a large extent growing up, so it was a pleasure to share this knowledge with my children and now to pass it on to my grandchildren. Thanks, Sharon, and I hope you enjoyed Easter with your family.


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