Did you know that the original PAAS Easter egg dye was invented by an American named William Townley?
“Mr. Townley owned a drug store in Newark, New Jersey, where he concocted recipes for home products. In the late 1800s, he came up with a recipe for Easter egg dye tablets that tinted eggs five cheerful colors. Neighborhood families started buying Townley’s Easter Egg Dye packets in 1880 for only five cents and mixed them with water and white vinegar to create the perfect egg dye! Soon, Mr. Townley realized that he had a wonderful product that other families would like to use to brighten their Easter tradition. He renamed his business the PAAS Dye Company. The name PAAS comes from “Passen,” the word that his Pennsylvania Dutch neighbors used for Easter. Today, Americans purchase more than 10 million PAAS Easter Egg Color Kits during the Easter season, and use them to decorate as many as 180 million eggs!”
Well, for whatever reason, my mother used to do it the hard way. She and my dad would poke tiny holes in each end of an uncooked egg and blow out the contents and then decorate the delicate empty egg shells.
She would start by painting the eggs with leftover paints from our house. So the whites, pinks, light greens and soft blues were all bedroom colors and where she got the bright yellow…kitchen? And weird enamel lavender? I don’t know.
Anyway, once they were painted, she used several methods to cover the holes used to “blow out” the contents. Most of time she covered the holes in the eggs with ¼” satin ribbon and added a loop so the eggs would hang on a tree. (Yes, there was a tree involved and I’ll get to that!) In other cases there were tiny silk flowers glued to each end with a ribbon around the middle of the egg so it would hang horizontally.
The eggs I loved the most, aside from the one with my name on it, were the eggs that they cut in half or poked a small opening in to add something inside. For instance, this one has an opening in the front and it is filled with tiny pieces of Easter grass and a tiny fluffy chick. The outside of the opening is lined with tiny silk flowers and there is a black velvet ribbon on this one with colorful sequins! What child that you know wouldn’t think this was worth a million dollars?
This tiny egg was broken in half, and after its green paint coat, the edge was painstakingly outlined with silver. Ribbons were added and small plastic decorative roses were glued on. Then, inside, a small tuft of evergreen and a spring of flowers were installed.
Some of the eggs had lace underneath the ribbon to give it a bit more pizzazz. Although most of them are now missing, the ribbons were almost always lined with tiny beads. I think my mom told me she used toothpicks to add the dab of white glue and tweezers to place the beads.
Of course this was my favorite, made when I was born, and look, I still have it today fifty some years later. It’s a memento that represents time my parents spend creating something out of love for me. My father is gone, but this tiny, fragile egg he touched remains. These are the things that make life so wonderful. Take the time to create them for the people in your life.
So, although I don’t have a photo of the tree, it was branches out of the yard that were spray painted white and then I’m assuming that while the paint was still a bit damp, silver glitter was added. I remember the white cream vase the branches were always stuffed into and then covered with Easter grass at the base.
The delicate eggs came out every year and for a while she added to them, but now only about a dozen remain. I don’t even get them out for fear my cats will destroy them. But every year I do hold them in my hands, remember what our first house looked like, and think about the loving family I grew up in.
I think that is partly what the holidays are about. A chance to stop the craziness, pause, and remember all that makes us who we are. Happy Easter.