To the Christian, Easter is the most important day of the year.
It commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ, His overcoming death, and the promise that believers will share in His glory. Comforting, indeed to the nearly 2.2 billion followers today, as Christianity is still the largest religion on earth, with Islam being the second-largest with about 1.6 billion people.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Europe was considered the mainland for Christians, but researchers now say the population is so widely spread across the world that no specific region can be described as the epicenter of the faith. The smallest concentration of Christians can be found in North Africa – where the faith began – and where they make up only about 4% of the population today. Ironically, Africa is the fastest growing Roman Catholic nation in the world.
For both the Christian and the non-believer, Easter is a family holiday when the generations get together for a meal of lamb or ham or some other meat, deviled eggs, spring greens and chocolate Easter bunny candy. The kids (young and old) chase down dyed eggs in the back yard, and sometimes even in the house.
You’ve probably all heard tell of sitting down on a sofa months later and hearing the familiar splat of a not-found Easter egg. Better yet are colored plastic eggs filled with money. There are lots of reasons to love Easter!
About.com talks about Easter as “the yearly time of renewal, when the earth renews itself after a long, cold winter. The word Easter comes to us from the Norsemen’s Eostur, Eastar, Ostara, and Ostar, and the pagan goddess Eostre, all of which involve the season of the growing sun and new birth. The Easter Bunny arose originally as a symbol of fertility, due to the rapid reproduction habits of the hare and rabbit.”
The ancient Egyptians, Persians, Phoenicians, and Hindus all believed the world began with an enormous egg, thus the egg as a symbol of new life has been around for eons.
The particulars may vary, but most cultures around the world use the egg as a symbol of new life and rebirth. A notation in the household accounts of Edward I of England showed an expenditure of eighteen pence for 450 eggs to be gold-leafed and colored for Easter gifts.
The first book to mention Easter eggs by name was written 500 years ago. Yet, a North African tribe that had become Christian much earlier in time had a custom of coloring eggs at Easter. Long hard winters often meant little food, and a fresh egg for Easter was quite a prize. Later, Christians abstained from eating meat during the Lenten season prior to Easter. Easter was the first chance to enjoy eggs and meat after the long abstinence.
Some European children go from house to house begging for Easter eggs, much like Halloween trick-or-treaters. Called pace-egging, it comes from the old word for Easter, Pasch.
Many old cultures also attributed the egg with great healing powers. It is interesting to note that eggs play almost no part in the Easter celebrations of Mexico, South America, and Native American Indian cultures. Egg-rolling contests are a symbolic re-enactment of the rolling away of the stone from Christ’s tomb. The decoration of small leaf-barren branches as Easter egg trees has become a popular custom in the United States since the 1990s.”
Wikipedia tells of the Ukrainian custom of dyeing Easter eggs, and the judicious guarding of family recipes for custom dyeing. The gorgeous, intricate eggs were decorated after the Easter Mass blessing and were carefully garnered with the greatest of care and ideally were perfectly oval and gathered as the first laid of young hens.
The dyes were made from dried plants, tree bark, nuts and berries. Bright yellow and red were extracted from flower stamens, sunflower seeds and onion skins. Wiki says: “The dyes were prepared in secret, using recipes handed down from mother to daughter. Sometimes chemical dyes (of unusual or difficult colors) were purchased from peddlers along with alum, a mordant that helped the natural dyes adhere better to eggshells.
“A stylus, known as a pysachok, pysak, pysal’tse, or kystka (kistka), depending on region, was prepared. A piece of thin brass was wrapped around a needle, forming a hollow cone. This was attached to a small stick (willow was preferred) with wire or horsehair. In the Lemko regions a simple pin or nail inserted onto the end of a stick was used instead (drop-pull technique).
“Pysanky, as they were called, were made using a wax resist (batik) method. Beeswax was heated in a small bowl on the large family stove (піч), and the styluses were dipped into it. The molten wax was applied to the white egg with a writing motion; any bit of shell covered with wax would be sealed, and remain white. Then the egg was dyed yellow, and more wax applied, and then orange, red, purple, black. (The dye sequence was always light to dark). Bits of shell covered with wax remained that color. After the final color, usually red, brown or black, the wax was removed by heating the egg in the stove and gently wiping off the melted wax, or by briefly dipping the egg into boiling water.”
The tradition of egg dyeing isn’t lost on commercial enterprises of today. Now, the unadventurous or those artistically wanting or those who don’t have time for time-honored traditions simply head to the grocery store for dyes and wands that come in a package. The kids don’t know the difference and everyone has fun—albeit messy fun. (More dye on the fingers than on the eggs.)
For us at GreenAcres who are more organically inclined, there’s a website and link that tells about the nine ways to dye eggs naturally http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2013/03/27/9-ways-to-dye-eggs-naturally/ If you give this a try, send us photos and tell about your experience and we’ll post the results on our Facebook page.
We wish all of our customers a happy Easter. We’ll be open all day to serve you. Enjoy your day with family and friends!