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Decorating Easter Eggs

Screen Shot 2018-03-29 at 7.33.22 AMIt’s Easter and time to color eggs. Maybe this year we’ll decorate eggs some way other than a water dye solution. Before I could even explain different ways, my young Grand asked, “Why do we dye Easter eggs and can’t we just color them?”

The practice of giving Easter eggs began as a Christian tradition. A red dyed egg symbolized the blood of Christ and the hatching of an egg symbolized the resurrection.  The tradition carried through the years to different colors and processes.

Ukrainian etched eggs, especially those designs made using the scrimshaw method, intrigue me most. The inside of an egg is blown out (I’m not sure I can master that) and then the shells are lightly carved using a high-speed drill and a fine pointed knife. India ink is applied and the excess wiped away, showing intricate designs.

A design on a Ukrainian egg is created by applying wax to the egg before dying it. The wax protects the shell from the dye and layered designs are created. Usually detailed designs with many colors are used.

For a whimsical look, eggs can be decorated as heads of people or characters with painted faces, using permanent markers or brightly colored crayons. Yarn for hair and ribbon and felt fabric for collars can be attached with glue.

While researching methods, I came across the most valuable Easter eggs ever created. Around the late 1800s, jeweled Faberge eggs were crafted as Easter gifts for the families of Russian czars. Only 65 were known to be made. Today most are housed in museums and each egg is worth millions of dollars. A Faberge ‘style’ egg, for as little as $20 is available, but don’t expect real jewels.

I’ll fall back on the way I first colored eggs with my mom, then my children, and then my Grands. A PAAS dye kit. In the 1880s, the PAAS Dye Company began selling egg dying packets. William Townley worked in a drugstore in Newark, New Jersey and often concocted recipes for home use. He developed small colored tablets, in spring colors, to be mixed with water and white vinegar, and he sold the first packets of five colors for 5 cents. The word PAAS comes from Passen, the word for Easter that was used by Townley’s Pennsylvania Dutch neighbors.

Today’s basic PAAS kit is about $4 and for $20 deluxe kits are available. Neon colors. Emojis. Swirls. Marbled effect. Glitter. Spacemen. Crazy bird. Decals. Stickers. More choices than my Grands and I need. But we’ll improvise.

So we have a plan. I’ll boil a few dozen eggs, buy the basic PAAS kit, and collect a few other things. Markers and glue. Ribbon and yarn. Glitter and sequins. Wax crayons. My Grands and I won’t create valuable art like the Faberge eggs or priceless scrimshaw eggs. And we certainly won’t spend the hours required for a Ukrainian masterpiece. We’ll talk about the first red dyed eggs. We’ll have fun and make some memories.  That’s why we decorate Easter eggs.

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Easter Menu and Bunny Cake

 “What do you want for Easter dinner? Anyone like to suggest a new menu?” Husband’s sister sent this message. She organizes family gatherings and makes sure we don’t all take potato salad.

Easter dinner is actually lunch, served sometime around noon. True southerners know this. I’m surprised Sister thinks anyone would like a new menu. What’s Easter dinner without ham and rolls and potato salad and broccoli salad and deviled eggs and an Easter bunny cake? Husband’s siblings, with children and grandchildren, gather for a family egg hunt and dinner. And maybe the menu can change, but no matter what, I’m baking a cake.

Two weeks ago, my 8-year-old Grand asked, “Gran, when are we going to make the Easter bunny cake?” Not, will we? Not, can we? When? I’ll bake a two-layer cake in round pans. And then the Grands, who want to, will help ice and decorate it. Ten years ago, when our oldest Grand was almost two, I invited him to help spread icing and make the bunny’s face. I never imagined that something so simple would become a tradition.

You know the bunny cake that has a big round face, long ears, and a bowtie. Every year I pull out the 3 x 5 index card that has a small picture of the finished cake and a diagram of how to cut one layer into almost thirds. For the bunny’s ears, I cut two elliptical shapes from each side, leaving a bowtie shape in the middle.

The picture shows a round bunny face, covered with white icing and coconut. Short red, narrow licorice candy stings form the mouth and whiskers. A green jellybean for the nose. Two pink ones for the eyes. Pink tinted coconut colors the ears. And about a dozen jellybeans decorate the bowtie. Our bunnies are sloppy, glitzy cousins to this one.

My Grands don’t like coconut. And I provide many jelly beans. After all, when three or four Grands want to help, the bunny is divided into parts so that everyone has the freedom to decorate one part. My Grands have created a rotation and they know whose turn it is to decorate the favorite part, the face. Others choose an ear or the bowtie. Our bunny’s ears and bowties are laden with color. Sometimes in a pattern. Sometimes random designs. Sometimes a single color. Always completely covered with candy and the ears never match.

Sometimes our bunny smiles. Sometimes frowns. Sometimes has an open mouth. He’s even had tears. What else would you call yellow jellybeans below red eyes? He’s had eyebrows and purple jellybeans whiskers and bugs in ears. Black jellybeans do look like bugs.

“Gran, don’t forget. The bunny is chocolate. Not that yellow cake,” I was told. One year, I absentmindedly baked a yellow cake. You just don’t mess the flavor of the bunny cake. But maybe we could change the other Easter dinner dishes. Anyone like to suggest a menu?

Easter Egg Hunt

 

easter-egg-hunt-sign-13369720When I was a child, I was as eager to go to church on Easter Sunday as I was on Christmas Eve when Santa gave me a peppermint candy cane. I wore new clothes on Easter morning:  a pastel colored fancy dress, patent leather shoes, white socks with ruffles, and white gloves.  Mother made sure that my entire Easter outfit was brand new, but wearing new clothes wasn’t why I was excited.

 

On Easter at Byrdstown First Christian Church there was a big Easter Egg Hunt immediately after the preacher’s last amen. During the church service, several men hid eggs.  All hard-boiled eggs that church members had boiled, dyed, and decorated.  I didn’t hear a word of the service – not the hymns, prayers, scripture reading, or sermon.  During the long hour between 11:00 and noon, I squirmed and wiggled and stretched my neck to look out the open windows to see where Daddy was hiding the Easter eggs.

 

As soon as church was over, I grabbed my Easter basket from under the pew where Mother had put it so I couldn’t touch it during the service.  I ran out the church front door as quickly as I could.  I ran right past the preacher without shaking his hand. All of us children clutched the handles of our empty Easter baskets and lined up on the asphalt parking lot at the edge of grass.

 

On one side of the church, eggs lay on top of the grass in plain sight for the little kids to find, and the other side was divided into two sections for two age groups. Very few eggs were hidden for the teenagers because they were beyond hunting for eggs, but they were enticed to look for a prize egg.  Those of us in the elementary age group had the most eggs to find. We stood poised and ready, knowing that for every colored egg we could barely see there were many more hidden.   And when someone shouted, “Ready, set, GO!” we kids ran helter skelter gathering eggs that were hidden in tall tufts of grass, under shrubs, among the exposed roots of tall oak trees, and along a grown up fencerow.

 

We hunted until someone found the prize egg, a hard-boiled goose egg wrapped in gold paper, and the adults in charge declared that every egg had probably been found.   We children counted the number of eggs in our baskets because money prizes were given for the number of eggs found – the most eggs, the least, and none.  And the person in each age group who found the prize egg got a bright shiny silver dollar.  I found the prize egg only once—inside the downspout of the gutter.

 

I took home all the eggs that I found.  Eggs that other church members had boiled and dyed, and I hunted those eggs again in our backyard as many times as I could get my mother or daddy or brother to hide them.  There weren’t any prizes at home.  I hunted just for fun after I’d taken off my fancy new Easter clothes.