Tuesday, April 12, 2011

This Ain't Yo Mama's Easter Egg

Yeah, mine didn't look this good, but it sure was fun!
It's that time of year again: time for fluffy things like bunnies and chicks, time for sweet things like sticky faces and marshmallow peeps, and time for fertile things like gardens and eggs. Yes, my friends, it is Spring, and with spring comes Easter, a holiday rife with religious meaning and symbolism. But I'm not going to talk about the "real meaning" of Easter today, I'm here to share with you a different take on a classic tradition: the Easter egg.

We have all bought PAAS egg decorating kits, balancing boiled eggs on a tablespoon to dip them into cups of colorful dye, experimenting with color layering or tie-dye egg patterns. Some of us have added crayon marks or stickers or displayed our eggs upright in little cardboard rings. But have you ever dripped hot beeswax on an empty eggshell, dipped it in dye, and burned the wax off with a candle? Well, then, you haven't lived!

When I was a kid, a family friend had the wonderful idea to attempt Ukrainian Easter eggs. Unlike American Easter eggs, when you make a Ukrainian Easter egg you start raw. The artist carefully pokes tiny holes in both ends of the egg, and then blows the egg out of the shell. During our attempt, my mother decided this process was too time-consuming, and she put her creative mind to the problem, coming up with an innovative solution: electric breast pump. We used the pump to suck the yolk and whites out of the eggshell, setting the egg innards aside for scrambled eggs or omelets later. (Note: if you are using your breast pump for milk, you will want to sanitize the parts after they come in contact with raw egg before pumping again.)

Playing with fire enhances the fun!
With the delicate, empty eggshell in hand, it was time to light the candles. The holes in either end of the eggshell must be sealed with wax before the egg can be dyed. We used beeswax candles and a wooden stylus with a metal tip to dip the hot wax and apply it to the eggs. The purpose of the wax on the eggs is to preserve the light colors on the egg even after it is dipped in darker colors. For instance, if you plan for part of your design to be white, you would draw that in using the wax as ink before you dip your egg in any color. With each layer, you add wax to preserve the color before you dip your egg again, starting with the lightest color and working your way to the darkest.

When all the dipping is done, use the candles once more: to melt the wax that you have so painstakingly applied to your shell and wipe it off with a paper towel. With the last wipe of the towel, your masterpiece is revealed! Now, when I last made Ukrainian Easter eggs I was a child, so my designs weren't terribly sophisticated, but for a family project you can't get much more fun! It's not for tiny tots (hello, fire), but for older kids, it is a great twist on the same old boring Easter tradition, and a memory I will treasure always.

What's your favorite Easter tradition? Do you have a fond memory related to Easter from your childhood? Please share, I'd love to hear about it!

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