By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — After the kind of winter we’ve had — with snow, below zero temperatures and ice everywhere — spring cannot seem to come soon enough.
And one sure sign of spring is Easter.
Easter eggs symbolize new life in the springtime and are a sign of rebirth, said Susan Hill of Colfax, who presented an “Egg-citing” program at the Grapevine Senior Center March 7 featuring her collection of antique Easter eggs.
In primitive societies, goddesses were often depicted as hatching from serpents’ eggs, and the yolk symbolized the sun, she said.
In ancient Rome, eggs were believed to ward off evil, and pregnant women were supposed to carry eggs with them to protect themselves and their babies, Hill said.
Legends focus around eggs, such as the goose that laid the golden egg, she noted.
Eggs were first thought to have been decorated in the year 722 in China; contemporary Chinese use eggs as temple offerings, Hill said.
A roasted egg is a Jewish Passover tradition, although Hill said she was not certain how an egg could be roasted.
Those who attended the Grapevine program also were not sure how an egg could be roasted, since it seems like the egg would explode if you tried to roast it.
And of course, eggs are associated with Easter and the Resurrection, Hill said.
Eggs are also part of festivals, such as the Mardi Gras festival in New Orleans, where egg-based foods are a tradition, she said.
In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, eggs are painted red; in Austria, the eggs are painted green, Hill said.
A variety of countries have an Easter egg tradition: Bohemian eggs, Ukrainian eggs, Moravian eggs, Slovakian eggs, Bavarian eggs, Mexican eggs.
The eggs in Mexico are “blown eggs” (with the yolk and white blown out through a hole in the end) that are filled with confetti for New Year’s celebrations, Hill said.
The Russian czars presented the famous Faberge eggs to their czarinas, Hill said.
Hill also showed a short film on the Faberge eggs, and it was noted that 50 Faberge eggs were designed all together, of which 46 remain today.
The hand-crafted Faberge eggs were made of precious metals, such as gold, were decorated with jewels and always opened up and contained a surprise inside.
Faberge was a jeweler by trade.
Easter egg charms were a tradition in Russia as well, Hill said, and Russian fathers and husbands would present an Easter egg charm to their daughters and wives each year. The charms were worn on a necklace.
Hill’s collection of antique eggs contains Easter eggs that she and her mother made from a kit when she was a little girl.
The Easter egg kits came as part of a “craft of the month club,” she said.
Hill also has alabaster eggs, ceramic painted eggs, egg charms, and decorated “fooler” eggs made of milky-white glass.
Hill said she remembered going to Bloomer with her grandmother to get “fooler” eggs, which were eggs put in a hen’s nest to entice her to lay eggs there rather than outside somewhere.
Hill’s favorite decorated fooler egg was made by Adina Felland — the wife of Colfax physician Dr. O.M. Felland.
The decorated egg has a label on the bottom identifying it as being made by “Adina Felland.”
Mrs. Felland died at the age of 106 in December of 2005 at Area Nursing Home in Colfax. Dr. and Mrs. Felland moved to Colfax in 1929.
Hill’s collection contains “cracked top” eggs as well, which are a series of small decorated ceramic vases made in the 1950s with jagged, “cracked” tops and three feet to hold them up.
Hill said she was certain there was a story behind why the cracked-top three-legged egg vases were popular in the 1950s, but as of yet, she has not discovered it.
Decorating hard-boiled Easter eggs with food coloring or a kit also is a tradition that Hill remembers fondly from her childhood.
Many readers will remember it fondly as well — hard boil the eggs; put water and vinegar in a cup; squeeze drops of food coloring from those tiny little food coloring bottles into the cup; put an egg in the cups and let them sit (longer for a darker color; shorter for pastel); fish them out with a spoon when you think they’re finished.
And if you really felt like being creative, you could consult the food coloring box for combinations of colors to come up with something unusual, like “chartreuse.”
Easter is early this year on March 31. Some years Easter is later in April.
But if we’re thinking about Easter eggs already, then maybe spring really isn’t far behind.