There is the commercial side of Easter we all know about — the chocolate eggs and Easter Bunny. But for our family the celebration of Easter is centred on the Christian meaning of the holiday. It is a time to reflect on the sacrifice Christ made and we try and keep that theme in the foods and crafts that we use for the holiday.
Eggs are a huge focus for many families at Easter because they are a symbol of the rebirth that is associated with Easter. There are several folk tales of how colouring eggs started to be a Christian tradition. In one version Mary Magdalene was bringing cooked eggs to share with the other women at the tomb of Christ, and the eggs in her basket miraculously turned brilliant red when she saw that Christ had risen. Another version is that Mary Magdalene visited the Emperor of Rome to tell him that Christ had risen, at which time he pointed to an egg on his table and stated that Christ had no more risen than the egg on his table was red. Legend has it that the egg immediately turned red. Ukrainian people are said to have started the egg-colouring tradition about 988 AD when Christianity was accepted in that region.
My husband’s nana didn’t make the familiar Pysanky Easter eggs when he was growing up but made another version of Ukrainian eggs called Krashanky. This decorating method involved dying boiled eggs a single colour using vegetable dyes. He has fond memories of being sent to the local grocer, in Winnipeg, to collect as many onion skins (the outer layer) as he could stuff in a paper bag. Then they would fill the pot with the skins, add eggs, cover them with cold water and boil as for hard boiled eggs. We still use this method of egg dying. For a different effect the skins can be tied to individual eggs with yarn and then boiled.
Other vegetables can be used. If you want green for example, placing 4 cups of spinach in the water with the eggs should do it. Others, for example cabbage (for blue eggs), works better if you boil the cabbage leaves in a small amount of water first then add the water and the cabbage to the pot of eggs and boil the eggs. I have tried other types of vegetables over the years but we like the brownish-red colour that the plain white onions leave our eggs. Our children like to colour on them with wax crayons once they are cooled. This is usually our Good Friday tradition. Once the eggs are decorated they are kept in the fridge for Easter Sunday.
When my children were younger they couldn’t get enough egg decorating so we used to cut egg shapes out of coloured paper and we would colour them and hang them on the walls. Children can use their own imaginations or if they want to colour authentic Pysanky designs this is a great site http://www.papereggs.com/pysanky.htmfor locating colouring book designs to print and colour.
We also make special bread that we only make at Easter. It is braided bread that represents the Holy Trinity and it is formed into a circle to symbolize the continuity of life. I cut little nests out of the bread before serving it and place one coloured egg for each of us on the bread.
3 c. white flour
1 tbsp. yeast
1/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. milk
1/3 c. butter
Hard boiled eggs
Reserve 1 cup of flour. Mix the remaining flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Heat milk and butter until very warm (125 to 130F). Stir into dry ingredients. Beat in eggs. Mix in enough reserved flour to make a soft dough that does not stick to bowl. Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Cover; let rest 10 minutes.
Divide the dough into three pieces. Roll each piece into a 24-inch rope. Braid the three ropes. Place the braid on a greased baking sheet in the form of a ring. Pinch ends together. Cover; let rise in a warm place 30 to 45 minutes or till doubled.
Bake in a 350F oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown, tenting with foil after 20 minutes to prevent overbrowning. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack. Before serving, carve nests out of the bread to hold eggs for your family.
On Easter Sunday we do our farm chores, the animals have to be cared for first, then we sit down to a meal full of tradition and symbolism of the meaning of Easter.