Next week it will officially be Springtime! In our house, we celebrate Ostara, or the Vernal Equinox–most commonly known as the First Day of Spring.
In Greek myth, this is the day where the Goddess Persephone returns from her six-month stay in the Underworld to rejoin her mother, Demeter–and her joy brings forth the crops and bounty of the Earth. Springtime–and Easter–are traditional celebrations of fertility, and so the egg is an obvious symbol. Sprouted seeds are another symbol that we tend to include–especially since we’ve started keeping a vegetable garden.
There’s lots of things that you can color eggs with besides conventional (chemical!) store-bought dyes. Also, you can celebrate with egg symbols without actually using or eating eggs. Here are a few ideas I’ve tried:
Natural Egg Dye:
Other natural egg dyes need different instructions and different amounts of time for each color you want to use, but I think that’s a lot of hassle. Instead, this technique will take a bit longer, but it’s the same for each color. You can use brown or white eggs, but make sure they’re raw. They will cook and color at the same time. If you use eggs that are several days old, they will be easier to peel later.
Gather up several pots and probably two dozen eggs, white vinegar–and the following, to give a good variety of color:
- 1 cup shredded red cabbage (sky blue)
- Large handful yellow onion skins (red-orange)
- 2 Tbsp. turmeric (bright yellow)
- 1/8 cup liquid chlorophyll (green–omit vinegar!)
- 1 cup blueberries (pale blue)
- 1 cup grape juice concentrate (grey-purple)
- Large handful red onion skins (brown)
Fill a pan with about 4 cups of water, 2 Tablespoons of vinegar, and one of the color ingredients above. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes. THEN, add the raw eggs (up to six at a time) and simmer on low for another 30 minutes. Dyed and cooked in one step! You can use all four burners and do four colors at once.
***ETA: I had originally listed red onion skins for green–but I cannot get that result to duplicate, for some reason. They turned out a deep brown instead. So I’m using liquid chlorophyll for green, since I have that on hand.
Also, the eggs dyed with yellow onion skin look really dark because i forgot about them..! If you leave them in the dye-pot in the fridge overnight, they will turn bright red 😉 Sorry for any confusion!!***
After you’ve done your backyard egg hunt, make deviled eggs–but hold the Miracle Whip!
- Dill pickle relish
- Hummus (Garlic, plain or red pepper–your choice)
- Paprika–just for topping
- Hard-boiled eggs, of course
Peel your hard-boiled eggs, cut them in half lengthwise, and put the yolks into a big bowl. Mash them up with about an equal amount of hummus, and relish added to taste (every good chef knows that tasting is more important than measuring!). Then scoop the mixture into each egg-white half, and sprinkle with paprika. Done!
Now, here’s one more recipe that isn’t natural or healthy, but it’s fun–especially for kids who like to help with baking!
Pink cream cheese cookies:
- 1 box strawberry cake mix
- 1 package cream cheese
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 1 egg
- Fun colored sugar, sprinkles, etc.
Preheat oven to 350. Put all ingredients into a big mixing bowl, and invite your kiddo to squoosh everything together with his or her bare, clean hands! Once the mix looks uniform, drop it by teaspoonfuls onto a baking stone or parchment-lined cookie sheet. You can shape/flatten them to be more cookie-like, if you want. Then add sprinkles or colored sugar. Bake for 13-15 minutes.
These are yummy, and so easy and fun to make.
I’m not as clever as some mamas who make their own egg-shaped candles–I just buy them at the craft store.
Egg candles are one of our family rituals every year, however. I get an egg-shaped candle for each of us, and we all take toothpicks and carve symbols that represent things we’d like to see grow and blossom in ourselves during the year ahead. Sometimes we use runes, others we just write words, or make pretty patterns. Even my two-year old does this with us. When we’re done, we talk a bit about what we’ve carved into our candle and why, and then we arrange them into a circle on a heat-proof platter, light them, and let then burn themselves out. The colored wax makes pretty patterns on the plate, and sometimes we save the whole thing.
Someday, I will re-use that wax to make more candles. Y’know, if I ever get into candle-making. =)
Painted Wooden/Plaster Eggs:
Again, more evidence of my love for the craft store. When I was vegan, I used to buy wooden and plaster eggs and paints for my kids, worried that they would miss the actual eggs and egg-dying come Spring-time (they never cared!). I would get the plaster ones that are molded into designs, making it easier for the younger ones to paint. The wooden ones are more durable, but you have to have a steady hand to paint patterns on them–or else a taste for abstract art 😉 These hide just as well for egg hunts, or are a fun craft project when included in an Easter basket.
Get some dried butter beans, limas, or other large, light-colored bean. Pick out a few for each person in the family. With a permanent marker, draw things on the beans that symbolize your intentions for yourself in the coming year–hearts, peace signs, stars, spirals, whatever speaks to you. Then plant the beans and watch your intentions grow!
A fun way to do these is to plant them inside of old egg shells, if you’ve got at least half of the shell intact. If you plan ahead, you can save eggshells for this project as you do your cooking and baking over several days or weeks (wash and dry them if you plan to add them to your garden outdoors, to prevent soil contamination). Take an ice pick or other sharp object and pierce a hole in the bottom of each shell-half for drainage, then fill the shells with a small amount of potting soil. If you want to re-plant your beans in the garden, you can plant them right in the egg shell.
I like this activity because it combines the actual growth of new life within the seedling and the egg imagery–but in this case the egg is fulfilling the death/rebirth part of the life cycle, nourishing life in a different way.
Natural Grass Easter Basket:
Instead of using gross plastic “grass” in your kids’ baskets, why not sprout a basket full of real, lush grass? If you have a kitty, he or she will enjoy nibbling on it after you’re done with it! This project takes about a week, and might be tricky to pull off if you want it to be a surprise, since my kids invariably find things like this that I try to hide while they’re in-the-making.
The tricky part: Get a basket, and find a dish or pan that fits inside really well (those tinfoil baking pans work well).
Next, soak a handful or two of wheat berries in room-temperature water overnight. (You can get these in a health food store, or probably in the grocery’s bulk section).
Then add about an inch of potting soil in the bottom of your dish or pan, and spread the wheat berries over top of it in a uniform layer (just about obscuring the soil). Lightly cover this with more soil, thoroughly water, and place the dish or pan in a sunny windowsill. Keep the soil moist, and in a week you’ll have a living carpet of green! Your kitty will thank you.
Happy Spring, everyone!