Traditions: The Dyeing of the Eggs

The purple crocuses have been peeking their bright petals out of the thawing earth. There’s still snow on half my lawn, but the sun has finally stopped hitting snooze on its alarm button. Spring might just finally be here, on the coattails of Easter.

I’ve gone on about how I love traditions and rituals. I love seeing how people mark the passing of time with holidays, events, and ceremonies that are special to them.

I’ve been lucky enough to experience and learn about other rituals, like Chinese New Year, a Passover Cedar, and hey, the summer solstice in Iceland is certainly on my bucket list. But this week, it’s about sharing one of the traditions I’ve grown up with: dyeing eggs.

Dyeing eggs in tea cups, because we are classy

Dyeing eggs in tea cups, because we are classy

Fun anecdote. I got my friends and myself kicked out of a particularly religious Spanish teacher’s classroom after-school in high school once. Why? We were playing video games in her room, and I was blathering on about the origin of Easter Eggs, when she came out of her backroom and thumped a bible on the desk in front of me.

“Find where it says that in the Bible!”

Quizzically, and taken aback, (for this was public school, after all, and speaking of religious matters was verboten) I asked her if she had heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls and whether she believed they were canon.

She said yes. And then I quipped, “Well, those aren’t in the bible”, and after being at a loss for words, she promptly kicked us out of her room.

Ah, religion, y’all.

Anyway. Where do Easter Eggs originate? Like all religions and cultures, they were appropriated from somewhere else first. (We get the name Easter from the pagans). According to Wikipedia, decorated, engraved ostrich eggs have been found in Africa and are an amazing 60,000 years old! And decorated eggs have been found in the graves of ancient Egyptians as well.

It gained its Christian aspect when Mesopotamians dyed the eggs red (a practice still done in Eastern Christian churches) to symbolize the blood of Christ. Cracking the egg is supposed to be like cracking open Jesus’s tomb for his resurrection.

It’s so fantastically morbid, I love it.

Of course, eggs have meaning all of their own. They connote new life, and a multitude of other faiths and cultures, from Iran to the ancient Zoroastrians to the Pagans, use painted eggs at their springtime holiday. The earth is cracking open from its frozen shell of winter. A new start begins.

My mother used to hollow out the eggs, and decorate the shells with little drops of fabric paint, turning them into shimmering, textured, fragile spheres. They seemed like eggs for tiny dragons maybe, or fairies.

eggcollage

I like trying to do very simple designs. I made Pabu and Aang from the Avatar-verse. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much where my craftiness both begins and ends. I don’t need to dye them all to symbolize blood, you know. I appreciate them for their burst of colors, their promise that spring is on its way, just still playing hide-and-go-seek with us.

This year, my friends and I have around 50 eggs to dye. It’s going to be messy and wonderful, and we’re doing a photoshoot with bunnies and the finished eggs. Hmm.. Easter bunnies. There’s another tradition, but this one I’m going to leave a mystery for today.

Love always,
Gabriele

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Making Tradition

Merry Christmas! I hope yours is full of cheer and happiness. I like to dream about all the new and exciting things I still hope to do in my life, but Christmas to me, is a time of tradition and celebrating the blessings we already have in our lives.

Our little chubby Christmas tree

Our little chubby Christmas tree

There are a few traditions I’ve grown up with:

  • No meat on Christmas Eve (easily done for me!)
  • When we were little, we had Advent Calendars given to us from our neighbors (the best, though, was when our parents gave us a Lego one!)
  • Also when we were little, we could open ONE present on Christmas Eve
  • We throw the crumpled wrapping paper at one another and try to decorate the dogs with the discarded ribbons
  • We leave TBS’s marathon of “A Christmas Story” on TV all day
  • There was a brick that my relatives would try to disguise and give to one another on random holidays. Not sure who’s in possession of the family brick now

I love the idea of making new Christmastime traditions though! So I thought I’d share some of my favorites that I find fascinating.

Feast of the Seven Fishes 
Like I said, no meat on Christmas Eve! Instead, for us Italians, we’re supposed to eat fish and some families go all out. The tradition comes from the Catholic practice of abstaining from meat on holy days. The feast usually has seven different seafood concoctions, but some families do even more. I happen to love fish, so that’s fine by me. Nom!

St. Lucia’s Day
December 13th is St. Lucia’s Day. In Scandinavia, girls dress up wearing white and wear a crown of candles in their hair (Lucia means light, after all). Towns have processions and the Lucias visit churches, hospitals and senior homes with fresh baked buns and biscuits. There are other Yuletide festivities the Scandinavians have that I admire, like glogg, or mulled wine. I did my first attempt at making it myself this year at the BiblioSmiles holiday party. Luckily, it was a success!

Christmas Pickle 
Okay, so this one is attributed to the Germans, but it’s really just all us Americans being weird. A pickle tree ornament is hidden on the Christmas tree, and whoever finds the pickle is supposed to win some award. Why a pickle? I don’t know. Nearly every tradition doesn’t make sense if you think about it.

La Befana 
Another Italian goody. I like this story because it’s not overly saccharine, the way a lot of our Christmas stories are.  Befana is an old Italian woman who brings gifts to children on Epiphany Eve (January 5). One of the legends say that the three magi took shelter in her home before continuing on their journey, and asked Befana to come with them. She declined, but then changed her mind and set out after them, bringing with her gifts to see the new baby. But she hasn’t been able to find them, so she gives gifts to good children, and coal instead to the naughty ones. Sometimes she sweeps the floor before she leaves. Which is a lot different than gobbling up cookies and milk.

Kentucky Fried Chicken
If you want to celebrate Christmas in Japan, then you have to get in your orders for fried chicken. Some people reserve their KFC barrels up to two months in advance. Apparently, the story goes, is that it was impossible for expats to find turkey in Japan for Christmas day. So, fried chicken was the logical solution. And from there, everyone wanted to welcome in Christmas with KFC. (I still think I’m just going to leave out cookies and milk)

I hope your holiday traditions are equally wonderful (and possibly a little strange, though nothing is so strange as the pooping log)! Enjoy your holidays, hug your loved ones, and find a little peace, before we plunge into the new year.

Love always,
Gabriele

Inspiration: Tis the season to be nice

I mean, technically, you should strive to be kind everyday. But it’s like, even if we’re grownups, we feel the need to be a little nicer around the holidays, as if Santa is still watching us and we may end up with coal in our stockings instead of a shiny new toy (or iPad or pair of socks or whatever you’re desiring this year).

I believe in random acts of kindness. And this month, I’m challenging myself to go over the top with it.

Let’s be good to one another.

Here are some of my ideas, that I’ll be attempting to try as my countdown to Xmas, to make the holiday season a little more jolly. There’s one for each day of December, sort of my own advent calendar. I’ll be sure to update you all on how it all goes.

1. Give a homeless person a Dunkin Donuts gift card or a package of necessities (toothbrush, soap, toothpaste, mittens, etc)

2. Fill up some parking meters (Note: I think this is technically illegal, but I think so was half the stuff Jesus did at the time and no one ever bothers him about it)

3. Volunteer! Animal shelters, senior housing, soup kitchens. You can make a difference.

4. Operation Christmas – buy a present for a kid who might not otherwise get one (Churches are great with this)

5. Pay for the person behind you at a drive-thru or on line (side note, Westchester needs more drive-thru cafes)

6. Write a letter or send a care package to our troops

7. Call up someone who misses you (You know there’s someone out there you’re neglecting)

8. Give someone a random, genuine compliment

9. Give a big tip at a restaurant or to your taxi driver

10. Forgive. Someone cut you off? Forgive them. Barista gave you vanilla instead of pumpkin spice? Forgive. Let it all wash off you

11. Clean out your closet and give your hardly-ever-worn clothes to charity

12. Likewise, donate some of your old books to the library

13. Leave notes of kindness in places that people will find them (in books, on tables, on car windshields – except they’ll be panicking it’s a ticket first)

14. Smile at someone who looks like they need it

15. Bring a random treat/gift to someone (coworkers, classmates, parents)

16. Listen to someone who needs a kind ear and don’t offer advice (unless asked) or judgment; just listen. Seven Cups of Tea is a great place to volunteer a tiny bit of your time to this!

17. Donate to your favorite charity or nonprofit organization you believe in (and check this website to make sure they’re a reputable charity)

18. Make a conscious choice to recycle and/or pick up litter. Be kind to the earth too!

19. Write/reach out to someone who made a difference in your life and thank them

20. Put in a good word for someone. We all need help sometimes

21. Give someone your undivided attention (put down the phone!)

22. Say thank you to someone who probably doesn’t hear it enough but deserves to (a janitor, a mail person, etc)

23. Say sorry to that person you’ve been avoiding apologizing to

24. Collect the spare change in your couch cushions and donate it (even if just to your local coffee tip jar)

25. Bring back the shopping cart to where it’s supposed to go. You know what sucks? Collecting shopping carts from a parking lot that are scattered in fifty billion places. You know what sucks more? Doing that in December. Don’t be that person.

26. Leave a nice review for a product or service that you have benefitted from

27. Do a chore that you know someone else hates having to do

28. Buy locally or from a small, independent business

29. Shut down gossip. Let’s all avoid that irresistible poison for a month. Try playing devil’s advocate for a month and show sympathy. After all, Plato said, ‘be kind, everyone’s fighting a hard battle’.

30. Drop quarters on the ground for people to find. (Kids especially! Don’t you remember feeling rich when you found change as a child?)

31. Be a friend to someone who seems lonely. Because, you know, we all get by with a little help from our friends

 

What do you think? Do you have any ideas for more random acts of kindness?

Love always,
Gabriele

Inspiration: Be a Secret Santa!

It’s that time of year again… time to don a red hat with a white puffball, start singing countless holiday jingles and become a Secret Santa! Sure, there’s a zillion and one things to get for everyone on your list, but Secret Santa is a refreshing, fun way to add some holiday magic back into your grown-up life. Secret Santa is exciting! You have no idea what you’re getting, and you get to give someone totally different a gift, without zero stress about if they’ll like it or if this object if really representative of all your love.

Plus, you can add a really awesome accomplishment to your bucket list by participating in the world’s biggest Secret Santa exchange.

Reddit, the large internet forum, currently holds the Guinness World Book of Records for it. Last year, nearly 90 thousand people participated, including celebrities like Bill Gates and Arnold Schwarzenegger. This year, already almost 170 thousand people, from across 179 countries, have signed up!

This will be my third year participating. You don’t have to be a Redditor to join – the Secret Santa exchange is its own website. And if you get addicted, you can take place in any of the other wacky gift exchanges they run during the year (the sock exchange, ugly mug exchange, and awesome smell exchange are some of my favorites)

Tardis Cookie Jar

The Tardis Cookie jar of ’12. I can date pictures by my hair; it’s a great skill.

I’ve received wonderfully dorky things. I have some beautiful paper decorations in my room that came from Germany. A poem about Anne Boleyn. A Tardis cookie jar, Tardis notebook, Doctor Who bookmarks, and a hand-painted watercolor of a Direwolf with the words ‘Winter is Coming’. (The Tardis cookie jar was especially fun, as the box it was delivered in kept making the swooshing noise til I opened it.) My nerd self is delighted, because I’d never be so indulgent to buy these things for myself. My favorites have been the ones with the personal touch, like the poem and the hand-painted picture. It’s kind of nice to know a perfect stranger actually put some thought into you, another stranger.

And you get to pay that forward. It’s so much fun to surprise people and be surprised in return. You can even sign up as a rematcher, for those people whose Secret Santas drop out and don’t send them anything. Or you can choose be matched up with an international recipient for some multicultural gifting.

Winter is coming watercolor

The Direwolf watercolor. King of the north!

It’s not too expensive, either. Obviously you can spend however much you want, but the average is around $20-25. Of course, if you’re Bill Gates and get me as a recipient, you can cut me a nice big check… that I would then feel guilty about and donate to charity. (Sigh. Pesky conscious, ruining everything)

So sign up, if you want to add a little more magic into your holiday and someone else’s. Remember to fill out the form that asks you your preferences with all sorts of details. Otherwise who knows, maybe you’ll just get socks. Which are still awesome. But they could have been geeky socks! Think of the possibilities!

Happy holiday season, fellow Santas.

Love always,
Gabriele