Decorating Easter eggs through the ages


Bunnies and eggs aren't exactly the most logical match. Yet, the tradition remains that every spring a rabbit totes a basket filled with brilliantly colored eggs. So how did the egg come to represent Easter?

Laurie Harrsen, a McCormick spice representative, offered many ideas about how the Easter egg came to be, though she noted that nothing is certain.

"We have heard a [bunch] of ideas regarding the history of Easter eggs," she said. One theory is that Pope Paul V [1605-1621] blessed the egg in a prayer to be used in England, Scotland and Ireland. Forbidden during the fast of Lent, eggs were reintroduced on Easter Sunday, both as part of the feasting and as gifts for family, friends and servants.

"Decorating and coloring eggs for Easter was the custom in England during the Middle Ages," Harrsen said.

Another theory is that before the egg became closely entwined with the Christian Easter, it was honored during many rite-of-spring festivals. The Romans, Gauls, Chinese, Egyptians and Persians all cherished the egg as a symbol of the universe. From ancient times, eggs were dyed, exchanged and shown reverence.

More theories were presented by Robin Smothers, a public-relations associate for the egg-dye company PAAS. She said the 13th-century Macedonians were the first people on record to use colored eggs during Easter celebrations.

"Crusaders returning from the Middle East spread the custom of coloring eggs, and Europeans then began to use colored eggs to celebrate Easter and other holidays," Smothers said. In addition, the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all used colored eggs to celebrate the spring season.

"Among the Chinese, parents of newborn children still present gifts of colored eggs to their friends as a sign of new life," Smothers said.

The first known specific dye for Easter eggs came about in the late 1800s, when William Townley concocted a recipe for dye tablets. Townley, owner of a New Jersey drugstore, decided to market his product in five colors. He eventually sold his egg dyes to families for five cents per packet and renamed his business PAAS Dye Co.

PAAS now offers more than 15 Easter egg-dyeing kits, including Sparkling Glitter, Tie Dye, Eggs-A-Glow, Egg Heads and Glamour Eggs. Other companies, including McCormick, offer dyeing kits that usually can be found in grocery-store spice aisles.


General tips for egg-dyeing

Covering your work area with plenty of newspaper or other paper makes clean up afterward a snap -- just gather up the mess and throw it out in one fell swoop.

An empty egg carton makes a good drying rack, but liquid tends to collect at the bottom so use caution when lifting eggs out of the drying rack, and blot the bottoms carefully with a dry paper towel so the color doesn't run.

Making sure eggs are completely dry between color coats is probably the most important tip for great Easter eggs; paper towels, used to carefully blot the eggs, can help finish the process.

If you don't want to color boiled eggs, you can also use hollow eggshells in which the contents have been "blown" out. This method can also be used to create hanging Easter egg ornaments.


Blown-out eggs

Make a tiny hole on each end of the egg. A pin works well, as does a wooden kitchen skewer or even the tip of a sharp knife.

Gently work the tip of the pin/skewer/knife in a circular motion until a tiny hole appears. Repeat on the other side.

Insert the pin or skewer (the knife will be too big here) far enough into the egg to break the yolk. Use your mouth to expel the contents of the egg.


Sparkle eggs

Blow out or hard-boil eggs.

Brush craft glue onto egg.

Gently set egg in a bowl of glitter. Spoon glitter over egg, covering entire surface.

Remove eggs from bowl; set on wax paper to dry for one hour.


Tie-dye eggs

Wet a paper towel, then squeeze out as much water as possible.

Wrap the whole towel around an egg, crumpling the towel just a little bit.

Drip drops of different colored food coloring here and there on the towel.

Let the towel dry and then remove it.

[] (PAAS also provides kits for Sparkling Glitter Eggs and Tie Dye Eggs)


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