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Easter Eggs: A Natural History

Naturally dyed eggs

World Egg

Easter comes in the spring, when the earth renews itself after a long, cold winter. And while Easter itself is identified with spring and rebirth, it is the egg that has come to signify the season, and by extension the Easter holiday itself.

There’s a lot of lore associated with the egg; the ancients regarded the egg as a symbol of new life and rebirth. In fact, the world egg is a mythological motif found in the creation myths of many cultures and civilizations. In Chinese mythology the universe began as an egg, and the ancient Egyptians, Persians, Phoenicians, and Hindus all have some variation of the world egg myth, thus establishing the egg as the symbol of new life eons ago.

The Decorated Egg

Today, the most obvious example of eggs in modern (western) symbolism is the use of dyed eggs during Easter. The decoration of eggs to enhance their value became an art form centuries ago and continues today. There are many techniques and traditions when it comes to the decorating of (Easter) eggs. Some of the historical techniques for coloring or decorating eggs include:
Pysanky: Intricate designs are drawn in wax on the eggs, a process closely related to batik. The eggs are then dyed many colors. Ukrainian artisans are famous for their pysanky.

Jeweled Probably no decorated eggs are more famous or regaled than the Faberge eggs. The eggs are made of precious metals or hard stones decorated with combinations of enamel and gem stones.

Etched Eggs: The boiled egg is first dyed, then wrapped in a layer of wax and finally soaked in vinegar where color bleached off. This leaves only the wax areas of color.

Cut-Out or Carved: Blown eggs are used for these creations where a portion of the shell is cut away. The exterior is decorated, and the inside filled with a little scene to be viewed through the cut-out section.

Decorating Your Easter Eggs with Natural Food Dyes

There are many things that can be used to dye eggs. They have been dyed with roots of plants, flowers, fruits, coffee, tea, vegetables, and bark from trees. Below is a list of some suggested materials for use as natural dyes; keep in mind that natural dyes are going to create more subtle and subdued earth tones than bright colors. Also, you can check out this article at Better Homes and Gardens for a step-by-step guide and recipes for naturally dyed Easter eggs.

  • Brown and tan:  Outer layers of onions, black/green tea, coffee, black walnut hulls
  • Yellow:  Tumeric, cumin, saffron, lemon rinds
  • Orange:  Paprika, chili powder, carrots
  • Red:  Fresh cranberries, cherries, raspberries, Spanish onion skins
  • Purple and blue: Blueberries, boiled red cabbage leaves, beets
  • Green: Spinach

And don’t forget, you can always just keep it real with naturally colorful eggs laid by an Easter Egger.  An Easter Egger is any chicken that possesses the “blue egg” gene and lays ‘Easter-ready shades’ like pale blue-green.

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