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Archive for the ‘Easter’ Category

Happy Easter, gentle readers. Eastertide was an important time for the devout Austen family, as it is for Christians today. Over the centuries, more secular activities were included in the celebrations. This morning we are anticipating the annual Easter egg hunt for the children in our family. 

Best_Egg_laying_Chicken_Breeds-Wikimedia-Commons

Naturally colored eggs from different chicken breeds. Wikimedia Commons contribution from ViacheslavVladmirivichNetsvetaev

Easter Eggs:

Early Christians viewed eggs as representing new life and rebirth.This belief had a biological reason.  Chickens require from 14 to 16 hours of sunlight every day to produce eggs regularly.The lack of daylight and cooler temperatures in fall and winter prompts a change in  their ovaries, resulting in fewer eggs in late fall and winter.

As daylight lengthened in early February, egg laying increased again. By Eastertide, broody hens produced eggs in such abundance that the populace could lay a portion aside for feasting and celebrations.

The arrival of spring also heralded plant growth, budding flowers, and the birth of baby animals. It was a season suited to celebrating fertility and rebirth. The season’s association with eggs makes perfect sense, but what about  the age-old practice of coloring them for Easter?

The practice began centuries ago. Early Christians in Mesopotamia dyed eggs after Easter. This practice, adopted by Orthodox churches in eastern Europe, spread towards the west. (English Heritage). Considering that the holiday celebrates Christ’s resurrection, it makes sense that dyed eggs are also known as resurrection eggs. (Time.com).

Time.com also discusses other theories of the origin of Easter practices, most notably an early Anglo-Saxon festival known as Eastre, which celebrated spring and nature’s renewal wherein eggs played a part. Fasting during Lent was stricter than today’s practice. Abstinence from meat, including dairy, cheese, or milk, must have been an ordeal for those with few dietary choices. In anticipation of the end of Lent, people hard boiled the eggs of chickens and geese and stored them. After Lent, the eggs were eaten and often distributed to the poor, who could not even afford meat for the holidays.

English Heritage mentions that British history traces egg coloring to the 1290’s during Edward I’s reign. He purchased 450 eggs covered in gold leaf for his royal entourage. Over the centuries, elaborately decorated Easter eggs were gifts for royalty, including an egg in a silver case from the Vatican to Henry VIII. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, beautifully decorated Fabergé eggs were presented to the Russian royal court. 

As with Christmas traditions, the Victorians influenced evolving Easter traditions, which included more secular, family oriented rituals. They now focused on children as well as the family in general.

Easter eggs

Dyed eggs. Creative commons image.

Coloring Dyes

In times of yore, people used natural dyes to color their eggs. The intensity of the color and the hue itself depended on the coloring agent, the color of the egg (white or brown, for example), and the time taken to immerse the egg in boiling water. Generally, however, natural dyes lent themselves to softer, lighter hues than today’s brighter dyes.

One does not necessarily need to dye eggs. Different breeds of hens produce different colored eggs. In early Christianity, the color red represents Christ’s blood. The tradition of dyeing eggs red was followed faithfully in eastern European countries. 

red-eggs

Red naturally dyed eggs, detail, OMG foods. See link below. Buff with olive oil for shine.

Creating that deep red with a natural dye can take some  time and effort. One can prepare ahead of time by collecting red and yellow onion skins months prior to dyeing the eggs. Experimenting with the ratio of red and yellow for the preferred color, be it tomato red, a deeper burgundy, or maroon, can also be tried. I’ve read that wrapping a brown egg with red onion skin results in a dark maroon color. The eventual result is striking, however.

I prefer the natural color of the eggs as produced by the different breeds, and the softer hues of natural dyes that are produced by plants and spices. Allrecipes describes how colors are made: shredded beets = purple; yellow onion skins = rust;  ground cumin = yellow; chili powder = orange; spinach = soft green; grape juice = blue; blueberry juice = royal blue; red cabbage = sky blue; and brewed coffee = brown. Keep in mind that white eggs and brown eggs will respond differently to these dyes! Click here to enter the allrecipes article entitled How to Make 9 Natural Easter Egg Dyes.

In addition, Easter Egg Decorating Around the World is a fantastic article that showcases the different egg decorating styles with images and recipes for dyeing or tips on painting. How to Dye Eggs Red Naturally outlines in great detail how to obtain that rich red color.  Food & Drink also discusses: Why do we have Easter eggs? Tradition behind chocolate eggs explained and where they come from. 

Stuffed Easter Bunny with GiftsHappy Easter to you and yours! 

This article comes a little late for dyeing, but we hope that you and your families will attempt some of these techniques over the coming months in anticipation of next year’s celebrations. Ours is celebrating the day with an Easter brunch, an egg hunt for the youngest members (the day is sunny and not too hot!), and a day of family game playing and enjoyment.

Previous Easter articles on this blog: Click on this link. Horwood’s map contains an image of an Easter celebration in London.

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Detail of Easter Monday celebrations in London

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