Easter Eggs are More than Just Food

A favorite memory I have of Easter is of dying my eggs using onion skins. For weeks I saved up the papery wrappings of the outside of the onions. Now it was time to put them to use. Using string I secured the onion skins to my eggs and set them on to boil. The results were quite lovely and I was grateful to my friend Maggie for sharing her knowledge of how eggs were originally colored in her native homeland.

Eggs have always had mythological significance. The oldest recorded writings the Vedas of India, say the world evolved from a cosmic egg. According to Wikepedia other mythologies featuring creation and eggs include the Egyptian, the Phoenician, the Greek, the Chinese and the Finnish. As all life hatches from eggs—whether those of mammals or of egg layers, it make perfect sense that a holiday that began as a fertility celebration would feature them.

Easter is essentially a spring festival. The Christian expression of it also relates to life and generation of which eggs are a symbol. Red dyed eggs have been found buried at Bronze Age sites. These were surely connected to the worship of the pre-Christian deity, the goddess in charge of spring farm and field fertility. The name Easter derives from the name Eostre, the Anglo Saxon goddess of spring or Ostara the Germanic version of the goddess’s name.

How the rabbit came to be associated with Easter and eggs is another story. A rabbit relative associated with the goddess, the hare a strong, somewhat fierce animal is nocturnal and its babies unlike those of rabbits are born with eyes open. Some say the figure on the surface of the moon is that of a hare. The hare has also been associated with the moon because its gestation period is the same 28 days. Thus the goddess’s sacred animal came to be part of Easter.

Despite their differences, the hare became a rabbit when Germans immigrated to the United States in the 1600s and settled in Pennsylvania, spreading out from there to the surrounding states. Their Easter celebrations did not catch on right away, however, because of the stronger puritan influence that suppressed what was thought to be essentially too pagan in its expression. It is most likely that children envious of Easter goodies and fun influenced the universality of the celebration so that eventually it spread everywhere.

Easter eggs continue to be important and many households will overflow with them after the holidays. My favorite way to use hard boiled Easter eggs is in egg salad sandwiches. This recipe is for 6 eggs. I don’t peel them but instead break them in half and scoop out the insides. Chop and mash with ½ cup mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon tarragon, Salt, pepper, a tablespoon or more of horseradish sauce and ½ teaspoon of dry mustard. Add ¼ cup finely chopped celery, and ¼ cup finely chopped onion. If you like curry flavor, add a teaspoon or so to taste.

Spring Is Making Its Way

Blue flowers and stone wallWhen spring comes, like the creatures in the woods and fields, I feel as though I am beginning to wake up after a time of hibernation. I want to get out doors and spend more time in the light. I welcome the brightness that comes in through the windows even though it also shows the accumulation of dust that is so easy to miss in the dimmer light of winter. I get out of bed more eagerly, most likely because the sky is brighter when I do. Spring also brings me memories of what it was like for me when I was a child and the seasons were more defined by what we ate as well as what we did.

Growing up I spent much of my time out of doors. My mother believed the fresh air was good for me. As well she wanted me to be active rather than sit with my nose in a book. Whenever the weather was relatively decent, neither raining, snowing nor windy and cold, I was sent out doors to play. I grew up in the country on a property that belonged to my great aunt Alice, with a good bit of land to it. Thus I could wander to my heart’s content in the fields and marshes that surrounded her large house and our cottage.

When the spring came and the ice receded from the marsh, I would trek about looking for interesting objects that the sea might have delivered during a winter storm. Once I discovered a large log, perhaps three feet or more in diameter that formed an interesting place to play. Another time I found a pane of glass with a lovely blue design on it that was yellow on the underneath. Thinking back I can see it still. It was probably once part of a picture frame. Sadly one day it disappeared, as did the log I liked so much.

Spring also meant there was more daylight time after school to play out of doors. As I wandered around, I made up all sorts of stories in which I imagined myself having some kind of an adventurous part. Although I had no one to play with I was good company for myself, and my active imagination helped me to create all sorts of fun. I was alone but never lonely. Being on our own property I was completely safe as well. It seemed to me that I had a little kingdom all my own to enjoy. Spring brought new opportunities for adventures as well as the chance to be by myself with no one to tell me what to do.

My brother lives in the house we grew up in and whenever I visit with him I marvel at how much smaller the property seems to me now. Too, the days seem far shorter than they did when I was a child, when Saturdays especially seemed to hold endless hours in which to enjoy myself. I greeted the advent of spring with joy because it meant I could get out and explore the surrounding fields and marsh in search not only of adventure but also of signs of the new growth that spring would bring to share with me.

A Sip of Spring in January

spring-water

The school I attended as a child had no weeks of vacation between Christmas and March. I had little to look forward to except an occasional snow day or being home sick with a cold. Not that I liked being home sick—my mother was not one to allow me to “enjoy poor health” as she put it. This meant I was confined to bed without much to do and no pampering. The best I could expect was an opportunity to listen to the radio. Television didn’t arrive in our household until I was twelve. The winter days were dreary with school and homework. I didn’t like skiing and skating was no fun so I spent my free time indoors reading. The advent of spring at least meant I could spend more time outside.

There is a deceptively warm period in the first month of the year called the January thaw. It usually comes at the end of the month, but sometimes earlier. It is the opening note of a long prelude to spring. Sadly, it raises hopes too soon dashed. February sets in, the snow falls, the cold descends, and winter reminds us that we have a long way to go. The upside is that at least the days are longer and brighter as the sun grows stronger and shines from higher in the sky. The burgeoning light keeps us apprised of spring’s actual advent.

Expectations often create disappointment. However it is difficult to avoid having them. The anticipation that is the creator of my expectations is what happens when I yearn toward something that is just out or reach or even beyond my control, like spring. This habit begins in childhood. Once we outgrow the present moment mindset of our early years, we are vulnerable to it. For instance, when the circus was coming to town it was a big event in my young life. My grandmother always took me and every year I loved it.

The difficulty with anticipation, especially when one is an adult, is that it can suck the juice out of the actual event. A few years ago Stephen and I took a friend’s two children to a local circus in a town nearby. Based on my memories of Barnum and Bailey, I had unrealistic expectations of the little circus and did not enjoy it nearly as much as I would have otherwise. On the other hand the two children we took had a wonderful time. Unexpectedly, my enjoyment ended up being about that rather than about the performances.

Today in the news I saw that the circus of my childhood—Barnum and Bailey, will be no more. This may have started I suppose when they released the elephants and now they are disbanding completely. I wonder if those who like me once anticipated the arrival of the circus will be disappointed. I haven’t been to a Barnum and Bailey performance in many years myself, however I have my memories. Thankfully I can sip those memories whenever I wish. That’s the blessing of memories, like food in the pantry or the refrigerator they are available when I wish to reach for them. Memories of spring, however, cannot compare to its actual advent, and that I eagerly await.

Tasha Halpert

 

Spring Mood Swings

It as been my experience that many, if not most people would like to believe that spring consists entirely of balmy breezes and blossoming trees, along with pleasant showers that bring May flowers. Perhaps this is only their wishful thinking, yet it seems to prevail among people with whom I have casual conversations. A few days of delightfully warm weather and they are sure that spring has arrived. Then when the weather turns cold, as it may for at least six or more of the weeks of Spring, they say that winter has returned. Yet nature knows best. The cycle of gradual warming and cooling allows for trees, plants and animals to partake in their awakening process at their natural speed.

What people may not realize is that were it to become summery all at once, the natural world of plants, animals and even people would not be equipped to deal with that enormous influx of energy. Try plunging your hands into hot water when they are severely chilled. It’s painful. Victims of frostbite must be warmed up gradually. Our bodies need to get used to the change of the seasons also. Spring foods like asparagus and rhubarb are good for that.

It would be nice to think of the season of spring as entirely warm and pleasant. Yet it actually begins on the Equinox with equal hours of light and darkness. The gradual lengthening of light awakens the life energy in plants and animals. The hours of daylight have been increasing perceptibly since the beginning of February. Now we have reached the actual balance between the hours of dark and light. From now on, light is in the ascendance.

Living as we do in a world where electricity can turn night into day, we may not be as aware of the nurturing quality of darkness. I find I enjoy the dark hours as much as I do the light. While I love the light and appreciate the lengthening days of spring, I also remember with pleasure the snugness of the long winter’s nights and the coziness of the covers when it is dark outside. Balance is good. The ups and downs of spring weather remind us of that. I am glad I live where the seasons bring an obvious change. As I drive I smile at the swelling, pinkish buds of the as yet bare trees as they reach toward the sun and its warmth.

The relief we feel when the sun warms us is surely increased by our natural reaction to the bitter cold. The grief we feel as skies cloud and chilly breezes blow reminds us of what we seem to have lost. Yet as a wise person has said, spring brings hope. Even during the days it seems to retreat we can maintain that hope by acknowledging how we much cherish the longer hours of daylight as well as the slow but steady increase in the pleasing warmth that swells the buds of the trees and urges the spring flowers open.

Spring flowers 2 for copy

Easter is a Feast of Joy

Image         About two months before Easter chocolate bunnies wrapped in gold foil begin to appear in the stores alongside Passover coins and other items relating to these two great annual spring festivals. Slowly but surely a variety of items crowd the shelves: yellow marshmallow baby chicks and rabbits, egg dying kits, and more. As the time grows closer to the holidays, beside the glorious smelling hyacinths in the market, fragrant lilies bloom.

For me as a young child Easter was always more about flowers and the occasional candy treats it would provide. My dad’s corsages for my mother and me were a big part of my joy in the holiday. I also loved it that we got to go to my dad’s church as well as my mom’s because I enjoyed singing the hymns and was given a plant to take home. As I recall it was usually a potted geranium. Hats were important too, and nice clothes–perhaps even new ones.

As the time for celebration approaches, shoppers carry away the flowers displayed on supermarket tables. Parents make up baskets with candy eggs and other tasty treats for their children. Meanwhile, Passover foods go home to pantry shelves. Like Christmas and Hanukah, Easter and Passover are celebrated primarily with special foods that pronounce the symbolism of the season. However, both of these spring feasts are rich with family centered celebrations unrelated to a focus on commercialism or gift giving.

Easter and Passover are different from each other, yet both tell a story that is important to the traditions of Christian and Jewish peoples. Both are joyous and raise the spirits of those who celebrate. This season of joy even blooms in the hearts of those who do not celebrate it religiously. The flowers and the candy, the candles and the rituals call out to the traditions that go back more than two thousand years. There is a kind of memory that is built into our brains and resonates to these symbols, increasing the feast of our celebration.

My mother did not usually cook for us on Easter. Either my great aunt or my grandmother did the honors. I remember roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, or turkey or ham, and all the wonderful foods that went with them. Mostly, though we got to go to the family feasts where I might be given a small Easter basket and was usually the only child present.

Once primitive people rejoiced at the coming of a time when trees blossomed and green herbs provided a variety to the stored, dried foods they had subsisted on through the cold months of winter. Imagine what it must have been like to make a salad or pick wild greens to fill mouths weary of winter fare. Now though we can enjoy fresh vegetables and meats all year round we have special foods to provide a feast that not only rejoices the heart but also reminds us that we honor the great traditions of faith that have for so long fed and sustained us.

Spring Patterns

Spring crochets leaves onto branches,
stippling blue sky with green lace.

Pursed tulips await rain until sunshine
encourages petals to invite sun and bees.

Umbrella in hand, I shade my eyes
looking at the sky in speculation.

Birds crisscross skies cloudy to bright and back.
Spring is a both/and time of year.Image

Springing Open

Brilliant forsythia fingers

fling their exuberance

into the bright blue air.

Red budding twigs

holler “here I am, shine on me.”

Forsythia sunshine

fills my eyes, Maple flowers

jingle, “Welcome pollinating friends.”

Spring buds open everywhere

blossoming their way into summer.

By Tasha Halpert

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