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Techniques for Dying Easter Eggs

The tradition of coloring Easter eggs goes back many years. Eggs have long been a symbol of springtime and of rebirth, adopted by early Christians from what was once a Pagan symbol. As far back as the first century B.C., there is evidence that Zoroastrians, one of the first religions to worship only one god, painted eggs to celebrate their New Year, which occurred on the first day of Spring.

Today, the colored egg is used in different ways depending on the country in which you live. Americans have Easter egg hunts and sometimes Easter egg rolls, which actually originated in England and Germany. Those same European countries also do Easter egg dances, a game in which eggs are laid on the ground and participants must dance around them without breaking their fragile shells. Other countries, such as Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Croatia, Lebanon, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, and Ukraine, enjoy a game called “egg tapping” or “egg jarping” where one player hits another player’s egg with their own. The winner? The last one with an unbroken egg, of course.

But regardless of the kinds of games played with Easter eggs, the joy is in coloring them, an annual ritual for many families around the world. Techniques for dying Easter eggs vary and can range from very simple to fairly complex. Most experts suggest you use white eggs, not brown, and stay away from jumbo or extra large eggs, because the shells tend to be thin and crack easily.

o Food coloring eggs – This is by far the simplest and most commonly-used technique for dying eggs. Simply hard boil the eggs first and dip them in a mixture that includes half a coffee mug of water (you can use bowls also but cups work better), 1 tsp. vinegar, and a few drops of food coloring to reach your desired shade. Let the egg sit in the cup until it’s the color you wish and remove and let dry.

o Polka dot eggs – Use the same technique above or use the pre-packaged dye tablets that you can buy in the grocery store. For these eggs, you’ll also need small dot stickers. Firmly place them on the eggs in your desired pattern before dying. When the eggs have reached the color you desire, remove them from the dye, let them dry, and then peel off the stickers to reveal polka dot eggs!

o Splattered eggs – This is not a great technique to use with little kids because it can get messy. First, dye the eggs according to the food coloring technique. Next, take an old but clean toothbrush and dip it in pure undiluted food coloring (or tempura paint, if you have some on hand) and run your finger over the brush bristles, allowing the food coloring or paint splatters to land on the egg. Use several contrasting colors, if desired. Don’t forget to protect your clothes with an apron or smock.

o Tissue paper eggs – With this technique, you don’t need to dye the egg first. Purchase several different colors of tissue paper and cut them into tiny 1 inch squares. Wet the egg and then lay the squares on the egg, pressing firmly. Squares can be overlapped to make the pattern more interesting. Once done, spritz it with cold water and then allow it to dry in an empty bowl or other container. As it dries, the squares will fall off but the colors will remain. Cool!

o Marbleized eggs – One of the easiest techniques for making creative eggs, marbleizing simply involves adding a tablespoon of vegetable oil to your mixtures of water, vinegar, and food coloring. Dye eggs as you normally would, but you’ll notice that when they come out, they will have a marble look. (You don’t need to “marbleize” all your colors, but you will want to avoid double dipping an egg from a marbleized color into a cup with a regular color or you will contaminate the latter.)

o Rubber band eggs – Another easy technique, begin with an egg already dyed in one single color. Then place wide rubber bands around the egg and dip in a slightly darker color. Remove from the dye and let the egg dry before taking the rubber bands off. You can dip three or four times, for a richer hue, using a slightly darker color each time.