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

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