The Real Symbolism of Eggs

Whether you celebrate Easter or not, you’ve probably been party to giving or receiving eggs of the sweet kind. But it didn’t use to be about thin shells and tasteless chocolate. Thousands of years ago it was decorative bird eggs that were swapped – they were seen as a symbol of fertility and as the resurrection of Jesus.

In honour of the ovoid, beating heart of your cupboard, or fridge if you want them to last longer, (unless you’re vegan of course), this Easter we take a look at all things eggy.

What came first, the chicken or the egg?

Neither. It was the red junglefowl. No one knows for sure, but history suggests the bird was domesticated in East India from as early as 3200BC, and eggs generally weren’t consumed. Instead they were allowed to hatch to help sustain breeding. It’s thought egg-topped mutton became part of a staple diet in some areas of the country around the 1500s.

Selling by the dozen

By the Elizabethan period, selling eggs by the dozen was common practice. It’s not clear why, but the number stuck out. There are 12 months in a year and 12 numbers on a conventional clock, and there were 12 disciples and 12 pennies in a shilling. It made sense then to box eggs in twelves.

The collapse of the imperial unit system in the early 1970s couldn’t break the undying love for buying them by the dozen, much to the EU’s irritation. In 2010, it was reported that eggs would be subject to food labelling changes that would see them no longer sold in numbers, but under an EU-wide weight-based system. Alas, interfering Brussels bureaucrats didn’t get their way.

Eggs-aggerating the impact on health

Throughout the 1960s, and even through to the 80s, eggs were given a bad rap by scientists who published junk research that linked consumption with heart disease. Since then studies have found that saturated and trans fats are more likely to clog up the arteries.

After more than 40 years telling people that eggs could send them to an early grave the US government recently withdrew its warnings.

Reaching peak egg


With no regard for waistlines, the global population was said to have consumed 10 billion eggs in 2014. Market researchers are looking on the sunny side and believe demand for them will continue to increase over the next 10 years.

From the recently opened The Good Egg cafe in Stoke Newington to Bad Egg in Moorgate, to Egg Break in Notting Hill, foodies and eateries clearly know how to over-egg the appetite for them.

It’s no yolk

It’s not just egg sales that are on the rise. The demand for egg whites, especially in liquid form, has been growing too. Despite the fact that scientists believe yolks do little to increase cholesterol levels, health food nerds have been whipping themselves up into a frenzy and are opting to consume just the whites because they’re fat-free and full of proteins. Surely, choosing not to eat the yellow part is crime against decent food?

More to it than meets the shell
Proving there’s more to an egg that just the white, yolk and shell, researchers believe a lot can be told about someone’s personality from how they have their eggs. A 2012 study carried out by Mindlab International, and commissioned by the British Egg industry Council, questioned more than 1,000 people on their lifestyle and their egg eating preference. Boiled egg lovers are supposedly careless and impulsive and those who like to fry them, well they’re meant to have more fun between the sheets.

And on that note… discover what your egg-cooking technique says about you!




Richard McEachran

Rich McEachran is a freelance features writer covering all things edible, green and sustainable. He writes for The Guardian, Vice and Virgin Travel. He was a finalist in the Guardian International Development Journalism competition 2012.


  1. Is this egg research and personality accurate ? – I can’t believe it and what a waste of money if it is- I’m hopings its tongue in cheek

  2. Hello Mille, it’s very much tongue in cheek.

  3. For the purposes of clarification, eggs are sold in the EU by the dozen or half a dozen. This might explain why the current rules were never changed (Changes did not make sense). This was not an UK versus EU issue, suggesting otherwise is incorrect and involves polarising readers for fun

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