Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Easter Eggs

Unused egg dying kit (c) 2015, Robert C Trube

Unused egg dying kit (c) 2015, Robert C Trube

Easter eggs. Do you remember dying them as a kid? Mom would hard boil a number of eggs, you would dip them in dye and put them around in baskets for Easter. Perhaps you would use a wax crayon to draw a design or write your name or just “Happy Easter” on the egg. The design would magically appear because the dye would not adhere to the wax. Sometimes you would get fancy and you would paint on the egg as well after the dye dried.

None of these were intended to be lasting works of art because the eggs would eventually spoil. [In fact, according to What’s Cooking America, hard-boiled eggs are only safe for a few hours at room temperatures and only a week refrigerated in their shells.]

One of the reasons for this tradition, and perhaps why Easter eggs were popular in Youngstown was that eggs along with meat were prohibited during the traditional Lenten fast. Unfortunately, no one told the chickens!  So decorating and keeping eggs until Easter was one way to deal with all those eggs!

There were many from eastern European countries who immigrated to Youngstown, who took egg decorating to elaborate heights. These works of art were preserved and to do so involved creating two tiny holes in the egg, puncturing the egg yolk and using a straw or an ear syringe to blow out the contents of the egg. There is a WikiHow article describing the process step by step complete with video.

Eggs could be painted quite elaborately and in different styles in different countries. Here are a few from the Wikipedia article on Easter eggs:

"Ostereier 10" by L.Kenzel - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Ostereier 10” by L.KenzelOwn work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

One of the other ways we enjoyed eggs at Easter in my family, (and this seems common in German and other European families) is pickled eggs. Making these involves immersing hard boiled eggs in a mix of beet juice and vinegar. The recipe on page 8 in the first Recipes of Youngstown cookbook also includes chopped onions, sugar, salt, black pepper, bay leaves, and cloves in the recipe. I still love pickled eggs whenever I can find them. Amish restaurants are a good place as these are popular among the Pennsylvania Dutch.

I don’t remember Easter egg hunts as a kid. When there were hunts, eggs were hidden and the kids who found the most won prizes. This seems to have become more popular in recent years with the advent of those plastic eggs that can be loaded with chocolate eggs and other candies. Decorating trees with eggs has also become more popular since plastic eggs have been introduced.

Decorating eggs was one of the ways we anticipated Easter. We were taught they symbolized the empty tomb of Jesus that we celebrated that day–Jesus coming forth from the grave alive anew. I’m not sure we gave that much thought at the time because we were having so much fun dying the eggs (and maybe thinking of those Easter baskets loaded with candy). But truth be told, they made a festive reminder of an event, if true, that was the most amazing miracle of them all.

What are your memories of dying and decorating Easter eggs?

[This and all the Growing Up in Youngstown posts can be found in the “On Youngstown” category that can be accessed from the homepage of this blog]

2 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Easter Eggs

  1. On Easter Saturday my family would take a basket of the foods we would eat for Easter Sunday including the hard boiled eggs for a blessing by the priest at Holy Name Church. Michelle Humans White ps Happy Easter to all!

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