It has been 20 years since my in-laws moved out of their hay farm and into town, and may be 7 or 8 years since we had an Easter egg hunt in the forest. Hard to believe it has been that long. Ever since the kids were born, we looked forward to Easter with my in-laws. The tradition had been that on Easter Saturday, the family would gather to make Easter eggs. This was no dye job, or simple colouring of eggs. This was their family tradition, who knows how many generations had maintained this?
My mother in-law would have started collecting onion peel for some time. Yes, regular onion peels – the brown kind. She would have at least one or two trays full of it, along with some discoloured and worn looking rags and strings that had seen better days, and that she had saved over the years, previously used for making Easter eggs. For the uninitiated, like I was the first time I saw them, I would have thrown them out long ago. The family would go for a walk in the forest to find and gather a collection of interestingly shaped blades of grass, wild flowers, leaves and assorted plant bits. These would be brought back to the kitchen as decorations for the Easter eggs.
To make the Easter eggs, dozens of raw eggs would be washed and soaked in water. One would crush and break up the onion peel into tiny little bits to make a nest on a piece of the rags, the smaller the bits, the more interesting the results. A wet egg would then be placed in the nest of onion peel bits, and if desired, different leaves, flowers or grass would be placed on the wet egg as decorations. Occasionally, left over pieces of coloured crepe paper might be used to make patterns on the wet egg, like a cross. One would then carefully wrap the egg inside the onion peel nest, and tie the rag tightly with the strings without breaking the egg. Each person had to make at least 2 eggs. The older kids or adults would help the little ones. We would tie each person’s eggs with some kind of identification, so that we could find our own eggs later.
The wrapped eggs would be placed in boiling water mixed with vinegar; the vinegar was intended to set the colours. After boiling the eggs for about 20-25 minutes, they were set out to cool. The kids never wanted to wait for them to cool, and were always eager to unwrap them to see the results. The onion peel would give the eggs unique patterns and colouring of various shades of red, brown and dark red or brown – this would depend how tightly one wrapped the egg to press the onion peel against the egg. The imprint of the leaves or flowers, if the egg was wrapped tight enough, would show up as whitish, and the blue or purple flowers always had the nicest effects, against a sea of red and brown. The dye from the crepe paper, if used, would sometimes transfer onto the egg, but not always. Each person would find their own eggs, and the eggs were then rubbed with pieces of bacon fat to make them shiny. This was always the most exciting part – to see whose eggs had the best patterns, the most brilliant of colours and the most interesting flower or leaf imprints.
My father in-law would invite the kids to “kicks” their eggs with his, to see whose eggs were stronger, tougher and better to eat. The pair would first use the blunt ends of each egg, the younger child would tap his egg against my father in-law’s egg to see whose egg would crack. Then the sharp ends of the eggs were used, and my father in-law would tap his egg against the other’s. Whoever won could tap the egg on the “loser’s” head to crack the egg further. Usually the eggs with more washed out colours were used for “kicks”. After that, they could both enjoy their hard boiled Easter egg. All the uneaten eggs would be collected for the Easter egg hunt the next day.
On Easter Sunday morning, my mother in-law would hide some Easter treats around the house or in the garden outside, and the kids would be invited to find what the Easter bunny had left behind, if he had visited the house – of course, he inevitably always did. After a hot ham or turkey full meal lunch, in the afternoon, the adults would discreetly bring out all the candies and treats to be wrapped and inventoried in the bedroom, away from the children’s prying eyes. Usually the treats would include oranges, candy bars, loose candies, chocolate eggs and of course, our home made Easter eggs. Later when the kids were a little older, we made the treats healthier by including fruit juice boxes, granola bars instead of chocolate bars, sticker tattoos, and other less sweet treats. After the inventory, the Easter bunny (my father in-law) would head out to the forest up the hill behind the farm to hide everything. He would mark off an area so the kids later would know where the boundaries were (the Easter bunny was always smart enough to stay within a specific area, so the kids wouldn’t go searching all over the forest),, hide the treats in trees, inside a tree stump or under branches, rocks, etc. There were many good hiding places in the forest. Once ready, the family would take the kids, baskets in tow, to do the Easter egg hunt. This was always so much fun to watch the kids’ excitement and success in finding the treats, especially the difficult spots – the little ones never looked up where the Easter bunny had hidden things up in the trees.
We continued to do our family Easter egg hunts each year until a few years before the farm was sold. I really missed those times. I hope this family tradition would be brought back when our kids are older and have their own families. It was an AWESOME memory and family tradition.