Dyeing Easter Eggs Long Ago, Or, Saturday Morning at 11:59am


It’s Easter and Passover season. To say nothing of Holi, last week’s Hindu festival. There may be other significant cultural and religious holidays around now, but those are all I know.

To everyone, then,  greetings.

In fact, I grew up in a non-religious household. I may be the only sibling who emerged a bona fide atheist, others might be agnostic. Or Buddhists. Possibly Buddhists. We don’t talk much about religion, unless you want to include spirit animals. High WASPs are like that – we merge our heritage of Scottish grouse-beating with the more global mystical quest. Old money so often births old hippies. It’s a benign outcome, and one which has served the world well over time.

But my family did dye Easter eggs. My mother and father, when still married, loved the tradition. I suspect that growing up in a world with a bright line between kitchen and formal rooms left them both a little giddy in the face of messes, pale blues, and multiple cartons.

Wax crayons work like magic, dye revealing scrawled daisies.

To this day I smile at the scent of vinegar. I know now that it dissolved the eggshells a bit, allowing the color to take.

I suppose if you think about it, one could create a parable from egg-dyeing. Particularly in my family.  Something to do with the act of creation bound by structure. Each egg the same, with its limits, its perfect limits, and each egg finally different. Often named. Child handwriting, staggering with difficulty across a curved surface.

My eggs were almost always blue, and I think I almost always thought how lucky robins were, to speckle their eggs naturally. Life needs you to learn which parts almost always happen.

Again, specifically, to take on color one has to dissolve the shell.

Please excuse the obvious metaphors, but Easter celebrates the obvious, at least in the humanist realm. We might not understand the meaning of a Christmas tree, but if you don’t get what’s going on with all the bunnies and eggs let’s talk. Talk, and eat chocolate, if only to research the cultural import of mouthfeel.

Happy holidays to all.

Photo via Growing A Green Family on Flickr

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  • I never really did the egg dying thing growing up. It occurred to me today to buy a kit for my son, then I decided to skip the idea. I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to to with the eggs once they are dyed! My Scottish immigrant parents weren’t about to let me waste food so I never figured out the end of the egg story.

    I grew up with an Atheist and a Presbyterian – in a very Orange household. Funny how if I have to align myself with a religion, I choose Buddhism too.

  • Espiscopalian. all the way. Loved Easter as a child. My mother would set out our dishes the night before for a quick breakfast before church. One Easter I cam down to find every bowl filled with Easter gras and treats of all kinds. My mother said apparently the Easter rabbit thought they were supposed to be filled. Great memory. One Easter we were snowbound. We did not have any egg dye. My nephew was about four, so my sister and I decided to paint eggs for him. We used tempera and watercolors and did some of the most amazing eggs. There were beach scenes,animals,designs and cartoons. We stayed up until the wee hours. When we were finished we were just punchy with the giggles and tiredness. The next day we had the Easter Olympics on ice. My family’s house was out in the country, in a canyon filled with Ponderosa pine, and other deciduous trees, so our events were homemade and hilarious. We had the uphill chicken chase on ice, the snowman building contest, the sking contest, (which consisted of the nephews strap on little snow sled looking things that barely covered the soles of your feet) and of course, sledding distance contests. My mother ruled over the festivities on a throne we erected for her in the back of a pickup, complete with down comforter and a thermos of coffee. Her sceptre was a broom. My brother, sister, and I probably had one of the best Easters of our lives as adults.

  • Forgive typos. I should edit before I send! Not illiterate, just excited! :)

  • Dear Suburban Princess,
    You eat the eggs silly! The colored shells remove easily and you can have egg sandwiches, egg salad or deviled eggs. Nary an egg to get wasted in this house!

    Decorating the eggs, in this house, can be like an Olympic sport, as each child take painstaking care to make the best, most beautiful and most creative egg. Mom hides the eggs on Easter morning. I don’t make it easy. For example the yellow eggs are hidden among the daffodils… the purple might be found in the crocus… the blue sitting on the blue swing… my children know that they will be hunting for a while. There have been times when I have forgotten where an egg had been placed and came up with such the cleverest spot that even I couldn’t find it!

    This is the first year I won’t be celebrating Easter with my children… I didn’t think it would bother me but it does a little.. I am grateful not to have any of those lethal little Cadbury eggs hiding in my cupboards!

  • Read your post when I was remembering one of the things my sister used to do with me when I was 7 and she was 20. Our age difference, which seemed so vast then, melted over egg-decorating. We drew flowers with crayons, too. Such sweet memories from what is, when you really think about it, an odd activity. Thank you and Happy Easter.

  • We love dying our Easter eggs here – still, we are fairly religious, in a live and let live sort of way.

  • Happy Easter, Lisa.

    SSG xxx

  • I love Easter and all that goes with this happy holiday, and I have fond memories from my childhood. My children are grown and gone but I still color eggs and decorate the table, bake a cake and plan a special holiday dinner. My adault children continue the tradition, and I’m glad they do.
    I’m coloring eggs right now. Got to run.
    Happy Easter!

  • I enjoyed this. We’ve subcontracted the egg-decorating to our nieces, but we still hold the hunt and use the eggs at Easter dinner.

    Add Persian New Year to your list of spring holidays.

  • I’m also pretty much an atheist/agnostic, but I sort of enjoy all these holidays that really sprang from Pagan times and celebrations. As a child, I used to put a pinhole on each end of the egg, blow out the insides, and then intricately paint the eggs ~ sort of Faberge style. After Easter, I’d string them with clear fishing line to be hung on our Christmas tree. Somehow this post reminded me of this and how much I enjoyed it.
    Hope you’re having a nice Easter weekend ~ not very Spring like in LA.

  • Happy Easter!

  • We are an agnostic and atheist household. We love chocolate, jelly beans and eggs. I don’t care for the smell of vinegar, probably because my husband seems to put it on everything he eats. smelly stuff.. :) Enjoy your week-end!

  • Love both sides of Easter…actually went to Easter Service this evening so that we can hunt for Easter eggs with our little nephews in the morning…and eat tons of chocolate & jellie beans!
    I do miss making the eggs…a very sweet childhood memory (love that special ‘scent’).

    Happy Easter Lisa!
    xo J~

  • We dyed Easter eggs when I was a child. I loved it and have such fond memories. I grew up in a family that was culturally WASP/Episcopalian much the same way my husband’s family is culturally Jewish. I think we all agree on the joy of Spring, rebirth, and the Easter Bunny though. Or we keep our disagreements to ourselves but enjoy the candy and jelly beans anyway.

  • Happy Easter Lisa.Judith/Ida

  • Happy Easter, Lisa!

  • We loved the Easter Egg Hunts!
    And a chocolate bunny who’s ears we bit off first!
    Happy Easter Lisa

  • At Easter, the skin ( ? ) of unions was placed in with the boiling water along with the eggs. The eggs turned into different shades of tan. Served along with the Easter meal.
    But I liked chocolate eggs more, still do.
    Happy Easter Lisa!

  • Happy Easter! Happy Passover! Happy Spring!

  • This brought back a lot of happy memories. Thanks.

  • Ah the nonreligious household. As I’ve grown up more I start to have so many more reservations about having celebrations around certain holidays that are completely removed from their religious meanings. It feels disrespectful that I do it, somehow.

    It’s hard not to appreciate the childhood memories and fun that come along with them, though, and I think that’s so much of why even the most secular parents like mine celebrate still.

    5:40 am
    Susan said...

    It bothers me a bit too, Sheryl. I would never dream of appropriating the religious holiday of another religion and just adapting the “fun parts” for a secular celebration. It’s an interesting practice.

  • On the other hand, many religions adapted the practices of pagan celebrations for their own holidays. So, there you go!

  • “The global mystical quest”–a resounding “Yes! This is exactly what my spiritual path is, and thank you for naming it.” Forgive my hyperbole, but have you, a self-professed atheist, managed to single-handedly batter down the theistic walls that divide us?

    Secularization and hybridization of religious holidays make many uneasy, and the commercialization of same is even worse. But the nature of Being is change and creation, so I like to think that this cross-pollination and dilution, even though it worries us with the prospect of disrespect, will yield a new iteration of spirituality that is expansive, inclusive, and wonderful.

    Happy renewal and refreshment to us all.