Easter weekend is now upon us. As the holiday calendar rolls into spring, we wanted to post a blog sharing with you one of our favorite Wholesome traditions. Dying Easter Eggs! Where does this lovely time-honored custom come from? What are some of the age-old methods that were used to decorate eggs?
We also include a Natural, Simple DIY for you to dye and decorate your eggs this weekend. No need to run out and buy art supplies store when you can use stuff from your pantry closet.
Eggs were used by the ancient Persians and Egyptians to celebrate New Year, which happened for them in spring time. Of course, being that the Egg is a symbol of fertility and new birth, eggs have always been the center of many cultures celebrations. Even in these ancient times, eggs were coloured and eaten during the celebrations. In Europe, coloured eggs were used to celebrate Easter mainly as a house decorations. In Eastern European countries, such as Hungary and Romania, wooden eggs are beautifully painted in lots of different patterns. The patterns often have special names and meanings and help to tell the Easter Story.
Ukrainians have been created elaborately patterned eggs for a millennia using the wax coated process we demonstrate below. With this method, wax is applied to an egg, then soaked in colored dyes. When the egg has taken on the natural color of the dye, the wax is melted and peeled off, revealing all the colors beneath. Ukrainians call these eggs ‘Pysanka’s'
You say Pysanka...I say Pisanica?
The word pysanka comes from the verb pysaty, "to write", as the designs are not painted on, but written with beeswax. A pysanka (Ukrainian: писанка, plural: pysanky) is a Ukrainian Easter egg, decorated with traditional Ukrainian folk designs using a wax-resist method.
Other ethnic groups located in modern day eastern Europe also decorate eggs. In case you find yourself in Eastern Europe of the Easter Holiday here is a quick language lesson what word to conjure the tradition:
- Belarusians (пісанка, pisanka)
- Bulgarians (писано яйце, pisano yaytse), Croats (pisanica)
- Czechs (kraslice)
- Hungarians (hímestojás)
- Lithuanians (margutis)
- Poles (pisanka)
- Romanians (ouă vopsite, incondeiate or impistrite)
- Serbs (pisanica)
- Slovaks (kraslica)
- Slovenes (pisanica, pirhi or remenke)
- Sorbs (jejka pisać).
Each region, village, and even household had its own special ritual, its own symbols, meanings and secret formulas & ingredients dyeing eggs. These customs have been preserved through ancestors, passing down from grandmother to mother to sons & daughter through each generations. Like family crests from Western European counterparts, customary details of the decorating these eggs with the greatest care. After receiving the Easter blessing, was held to have great powers as a talisman or gift from one household to another.
Ancient Dyes - The Original Organic Non-Toxic & DIY Secret Recipes
The dyes were prepared from plants roots, bark, berries and insects that were saved dried & saved from last years garden.
- Reds could be extracted from logwood
- Yellows were obtained from the flowers of the woadwaxen
- Green from the husks of sunflower seeds
- Violet from berries & bark of the elderberry bush
- Gold from white onion skins, onion skins or a special insect called a cochineal
- Black dye was made from walnut husks
The dyes were prepared in secret, using recipes handed down with the utmost secrecy often only in word, with elders doing and children observing but never written.
Beeswax was heated over the families wood burning stove. The hot wax was applied to the white egg shell, sealing any bit of the shell and leaving protected area white. Then the egg was dyed yellow, and more wax applied, and then orange, red, purple, black. The dye sequence was always light to dark and bits of shell that are covered wax remained that color. After the final color, usually red, brown or black, the wax was removed by heating the egg in the stove and gently wiping off the melted wax, or by briefly dipping the egg into boiling water or rolled over a lit candle.
It is important to note that boiled eggs were not used as they normally are in modern day Easter traditions. The pysanky were generally decorate raw or, less commonly, baked eggs (pecharky). Boiled eggs were dyed red for Easter (red Easter eggs), using an onion skin dye, and called "krashanky". The number of colors on an egg was usually limited, as natural dyes had very long dyeing times, sometimes hours. Pysanky would be made–and dyed–in batches. The reason for not boiling the eggs was that they became family keepsakes. After being dyed, the yolks would be drained from a tiny hole and kept in the family or given as a gift in poorer times.
Of course commercial dyes are available today, but this old-fashioned natural method using the skins of yellow onions work wonderfully to create this deep red color..
Pysanky continue to be made in modern times; while many traditional aspects have been preserved, new more technical means are used to decorate the eggs. Aniline dyes have largely replaced natural dyes. But here at Wholesome Linen we bring together ancient traditions, simplicity and modern design.
Traditional wax-resistant egg dying method using natural onion skins dye recipe and a simple easter egg designs
You will need:
5 full cups of Yellow Onion Shelfs (Spanish onion)
2 tbs vinegar
Any of the dyes mentioned above or below, depending on how you want to decorate your pysanka
1. Boil onion skins: In a medium (3-quart) stainless steel saucepan, combine the onion skins, water, and vinegar. Use a spoon to stir all the onion skins into the water. Bring up to a boil.
2. Simmer: Turn the heat down to low and simmer & covered for at least 30 minutes, if you want a deeper color then simmer for longer
3. Strain: Strain the mixture into a pyrex measuring cup or non-ceramic bowl, and allow to cool. It doesn’t have to be cold, just below 160ºF or so, if you do not want to keep the eggs cooking.
4. Melt beeswax in a pot. Dip both ends or one end of the egg in wax; this will prevent the area that has been covered from absorbing the color.
5. Transfer eggs: Use a slotted spoon to gently transfer the eggs to your measuring cup, nudge them into place so the liquid is covering all of the eggs, topping off with a little bit of water if necessary.
5. Soak the eggs: Let the eggs soak in the dye for at least 30 minutes, or up to one day again if you want a deeper color. The longer they soak, the darker they will be.
6. When finished, place the egg in a 250-degree oven on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper for about 5 minutes. Take the egg out and wipe off melted wax with a paper towel. If you used a raw egg, let egg cool and carefully blow out contents. To make a half-colored egg, hold an egg partially submerged in a strong dye for about a minute. To create eggs with bands of white, dip-dye both ends, then dip each end in the wax to cover the dyed area plus a stripe of white beyond them, then proceed as above.
7. Polish with olive oil: When the eggs are dry and cool enough to handle, use a few drops of olive oil and a paper towel to polish them up. Keep the eggs refrigerated until ready to eat, up to one week..
- Save onion skins in a plastic bag in the refrigerator until ready to use for your egg dye or go to the grocery and fill up a bag of onion skins with a few onions
- Do not use any porous (wood, ceramic, plastic, etc.) materials as they can be colored by the dye.
- If stainless cookware and utensils get colored by the dye, wash with regular detergent and a small amount of chlorine. Rinse very well.
We just realized our Moses Basket Bassinets Look Alot Like Eggs!
Happy Easter from Wholesome Linen!