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Easter and Eggs
Today the Spring Equinox, one of two points in the year where day and night are of equal length. So from today through the summer Summer Solstice, each day gets longer and longer and each night gets shorter and shorter. It is a time where all new life is bursting forth and there is a big surge of forward momentum toward growth all throughout life.
Two weeks from today is Easter, the Christian holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. It’s one of those rare holidays that is calculated by celestial events rather than the civil calendar. Easter falls on the first Sunday after the Full Moon that follows the Spring Equinox. If the Full Moon is on a Sunday, Easter is celebrated on the following Sunday.
But since the beginning of our species, humankind has celebrated the resurrection of the new life of Spring, particularly in parts of the world where winters are cold and food is scarce.
Easter eggs are a charming custom that is much older than Easter. What more obvious symbol of new life than the egg?
Though we may today celebrate the egg as a symbol of rebirth in forms ranging from the most popular–chocolate–to the most expensive–encrusted with diamonds–using the actual egg itself for our spring celebrations restores this symbol to its original form in Nature.
Spring is the time for the celebration of eggs, for, even though we are able to buy eggs year-round in the supermarket, in Nature eggs are seasonal. The eggs that we eat today are mostly from domesticated birds, but for thousands of years, people collected eggs from the wild for food. Before 1900, wild bird eggs were on the menu in restaurants. In the wild, birds and other animals lay eggs only during the time of year when the weather is such that the hatched babies can survive. So there are no eggs in winter, and eggs are then again plentiful with the coming of Spring.
I first became aware of the seasonality of eggs when I visited a neighbor who raised chickens. She told me that her chickens require 14 hours of sunlight to lay eggs and that commercial eggs in the wintertime come from chickens raised under electric lights. Hens naturally have an ongoing urge to lay eggs from spring to fall, when they lose their feathers. Then they wait through the winter until 14 hours of sunlight return in the spring.
Of course, depending on where in the world these chickens are, the actual date the 14 hours or more of sunlight begins and ends is different from place to place. Even though eggs are available in the supermarket all year long, in the scheme of Nature, our bodies really are not designed to eat them every day.
The tradition of coloring eggs for springtime celebrations has deep roots in ancient times. It might have begun with the gathering of wild eggs of different natural colors in the spring. Although many eggs are naturally white, eggs of almost every color of the rainbow are known. As animals were domesticated and more white chicken eggs were eaten, it may have then become the custom to dye the white chicken eggs to look like the colored eggs of wild birds.
Though nowadays most people color their eggs with Easter egg kits that contain dyes made from petrochemicals, for millennia eggs were colored with plant materials found in Nature. Barks, roots, and leaves from many plants produce beautiful natural dyes. Coloring eggs provide an opportunity to experiment with plant materials that grow in your region–perhaps even in your own backyard. If coloring eggs is an activity you enjoy, consider keeping a scrapbook from year to year that documents the dyestuff used and the colors it produced. Books on natural dyes for fabrics can give you clues for dyes for eggs. Some years ago I experimented a lot with this. See image caption above and earch online for “natural Easter egg colors” for ideas. They turn out really lovely. Use various vegetable scraps, or order an EcoKids Natural Easter Egg Dye Kit that contains dyes made from vegetables.
In addition to coloring eggs with natural colors, you can decorate your eggs to look like bird eggs. In addition to their background color, eggshells are often intricately marked with blotches, scrawls, streaks, or speckles, generally concentrated in a ring around the large end of the egg. You can make eggs with your own “bird” speckles, or make eggs that celebrate the eggs of actual birds that live in your area. This is a good opportunity to learn about your local birds and what their eggs look like. Check with your local nature museum for more information. After enjoying your colored eggs on Easter or Spring Equinox morning, you’ll have a lot of boiled eggs to eat.
Here is my family recipe for deviled eggs, my father’s favorite.
Springtime Deviled Eggs
Peel hardboiled eggs. Slice them in half, remove the yolks to a bowl and place the empty whites on a plate. For every four or five eggs, put one of the whites in with the yolks to give more volume to the filling. Mash the yolks with a fork, or if you have a lot of eggs, use a potato masher, which is very quick and easy. Add sweet pickle relish, about 1/2 teaspoon per egg. Mix, then add mayonnaise a bit at a time and stir until it reaches the consistency you like. Mound the egg yolks into the egg whites with a spoon (I actually use a pastry bag because it is faster and prettier) and garnish with paprika, chopped parsley, chopped chives (especially little lavender chive blossoms), or any fresh edible flowers. Keep covered in the refrigerator until time to serve.
You can also substitute the yolks only with mashed egg yolks and whites together. Use the filling to make little tea sandwiches, which are also nice for a springtime party. However you enjoy your eggs, remember they are the nourishment for new life.