One of the most common Christian symbols, especially associated with Easter, is the lamb. It is often depicted with a banner that bears a cross, and it is known as the Agnus Dei, meaning “Lamb of God” in Latin.
The origin of the symbol is related directly to the Jewish Passover. In ancient times the Jews sacrificed a lamb in the course of the festival. The early Christians, most of whom were Hebrews, associated the sacrifice of the lamb with Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. They connected the joyous Passover festival, which commemorates the liberation of the Hebrews from their years of bondage in Egypt, with the liberation from death represented by the Resurrection.
The popularity of lamb as an Easter food is undoubtedly related to its importance as a symbol. During the Middle Ages roast lamb became the traditional main course of the Pope’s Easter dinner, and it is still customarily served on Easter Sunday in many European countries.
The egg was an important symbol in the mythologies of many early civilizations. It was commonly believed that the universe developed from a great egg and that the halves of its shell corresponded to Heaven and earth. Many pre-Christian and Indo-European peoples, like Egyptians or Persians made a practice of colouring eggs in the spring as a fertility ritual.
Greeks mainly colour eggs red (scarlet) to signify the blood of Christ. They use hard-boiled eggs (painted red on Holy Thursday) which are baked into twisted sweet-bread loaves or distributed on Easter Sunday; people rap their eggs against their friends’ eggs and the owner of the last uncracked egg is considered lucky.