Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easter Eggs Allelujah!

It’s a custom I grew up with, so I know no other….

Holy Week brought the fun custom of dying colored Easter Eggs! On Good Friday my Mother would boil dozens of eggs in large Pyrex glass pans and pots. The sight of huge mixing bowls full of hard boiled eggs showed the first sign of the anticipation of our Annual Family Custom. “Always add a little vinegar to the boiling water”, I’m still not sure why…

The next day (usually in the evening) we would fill repurposed empty glass jars with a mixture of Easter Egg Dye adding just a little more food coloring to the Paas Easter Egg Dye tablets. We measured the water and vinegar carefully, doubling the recommended strength of the solution. Paraffin wax (later, bees wax was preferred) was heated by stove burner in a shallow pan and my Dad would find the “tools” to create the magic artwork on our Easter Eggs. He had learned this “art” from his Aunt as a child. The tool was made out of a nail with a wooden handle fashioned onto the end. Later years I learned that this technique was evolved from a Ukranian custom called Pynsanky. My Dad is of German descent.

I remember that the heat had to be just right for the wax to adhere properly onto the shell of the egg. We needed to stay vigilant about turning the stove control back and forth between medium and medium-low to keep the temperature constant. If the wax was too cool, It would not stick onto the shell, if the wax was too hot, it would not “pool” properly when the tip of the tool met with the shell of the egg producing a lovely tear drop shaped stroke. My Father was practiced, no one could master his technique to perfection, though some of us came close in later years.

The night before Easter was full of anticipation, I could hardly go to sleep!  We would put our new shoes (bought specifically for Easter Morning Church Services) beside our beds. The next day we would dress in our new pretty Easter clothes and embark on a day filled with Joy and Happy People singing Joyful Hymns as we attended Easter Services. Upon awaking on Easter Morning, the first sight of a beautiful Colored Egg placed in one shiny, new shoe was the first sign that the Easter Bunny had come in the night. Easter Baskets awaited us filled with Colored Eggs and Easter Candy!

None of our friends had such beautiful colored eggs, so we often gave my Dad’s artwork to favorite people and one with the design of a Cross or a Chi-Rho to the Pastor.

Through the years, family members moved to new locations, church memberships changed and new babies were born. The Easter custom continued year after year as new generations were included. The colored eggs my Dad made each year remained constant until he was in his eighties. It was what we knew Easter to be and so it was the same for our own children... which explains why my 4-year-old son, while searching for his shoes one day, said that he needed to find his “footbaskets”!


Anonymous said...

The cross is decorative, signifying the "Empty Cross" after Christ's Resurrection; and the Chi Rho are the first three letters in Greek, or a monogram of Christ. Chi for the Ch, Rho for the R.

The Beeswax is the proper way to wax the eggs, don't use paraffin. It doesn't stick as well and color seeps behind it at times. Beeswax was always used in Europe. We have used paraffin with bad results.

The vinegar cuts any oily residue and is used even in fabric dying. Store eggs are sprayed with a light mineral oil to preserve them. Vinegar removes the oil and actually dissolves or etches the calcium egg shell.

Yvonne Lodwick Leonhardt

Anonymous said...

If wax begins to smoke it is much too hot as it could flash into flames.

I peel the wax off after dyingand shine with vegetable shortening, then wipe off as much as possible, for shiny eggs.