Dyeing eggs red – Anet’s Easter tradition

#487 in a series of true experiences in real estate
April 2005, Hills Newspapers

Anet’s entire family is Macedonian, grandparents on both sides from the old country, and so Anet grew up with rich Macedonian traditions. Name Day celebrations with vast spreads of food, large gatherings, hearty hugging. Older aunts pinched her cheeks and added kisses. Dances in handmade costumes. And Easter.

When I first met Anet she told me about Easter in her small Eastern Orthodox church in Granite City, Illinois, and about her much-loved priest.

Her story begins with the night before Easter when Anet and her family, and other families in the congregation, arrived at their little church at midnight.

It was dark and it was cold. And the tall wooden doors of the church were closed and tightly latched.

The small crowd waited. Thump, thump, thump. Someone pounded loudly on the door, but the knock was not answered. Thump, thump, thump.

This time the doors swung open – all by themselves, without, Anet is positive, any assistance – and that was when the inside of the church was revealed. It was blazing with light, brighter than Anet could ever remember it being before.

There was music and especially there was joy. Anet remembers these Easter services as elated, the entire church filled with joy.

Another part of Easter was giving and getting dyed red eggs. Not pink or rosy eggs but deep, rich ruby red eggs. A few years ago, I asked Anet’s mom how they achieved such a red, and in response, her mom sent me some dye.

The dye comes in small paper packets and is made in Greece, the instructions printed in both Greek and in English. I received both red and yellow dyes.

The day before Easter this year I remembered that I still had it, even knew where I could find it. By eight in the morning, I had eggs, pots and vinegar out on the kitchen counter and I was thinking how strange that for the first time in more than 20 years, there are no kids in the house. Yet, here I was, about to color eggs.

Dissolve “in a teacup,” the instructions say. But I started with boiling water, the yellow dye and a custard cup. Then in another custard cup, I poured an equal amount of white vinegar.

In a small saucepan, I boiled water for the eggs, added about a third of the dissolved dye, stirred, then lowered 5 eggs carefully into the water with a spoon. Instantly, the eggs were yellow. This dye is powerful stuff, different for sure than the usual Easter eggs dyes in a box I’m used to.

I left the eggs gently boiling, lifting them every once in awhile to see how deep the color was. Finally, I placed each egg on a plate, carefully mopping up with a paper towel the drippings so that there would not be any spots on the eggs.

They looked fabulous, the most gorgeous sunny yellow. I was ready to try red. Because I wanted to be sure to get very deep, dark red eggs, I went a little overboard. Instead of adding only one-third of the dye to the egg pan as I had with the yellow, I put it all in.

But in the pot, the shells of these eggs looked glumpy with something, and mottled. I realized then that the dye was just too thick. Before trying again I decided to strain the dye, and remembering that stockings are good for straining, I fitted a footie-type stocking over a glass measuring cup and poured the red dye through it.

Worked like a charm. The next red-dyed eggs were perfectly smooth skinned, stunning, in fact. Now I wanted to try orange. I rinsed out my pan, returned the yellow dye to boiling and added just a little red. I lowered in some new eggs and tested. Yes, just right.

By this time I had dyed 2 dozen eggs in absolutely glowing colors. It was so fun, and they were so pretty. I laid out a new white dishtowel on the kitchen table and placed on it yellow eggs in a small yellow bowl, orange in orange, red in white. The strange red mottled eggs I laid on a painted dessert plate, purple with violets. It surprised me that it looked so good.

I stood back and admired the pure white cloth with my spectacular colored eggs.

Although I’d been very careful, I could see spots of dye everywhere. On the stove, on the counter, my dishtowel, refrigerator door handle. Quickly, I washed it off, and I thought how good it was that I hadn’t been using this dye with my kids.

Anet told me later that no, the kids didn’t do the dyeing. She doesn’t know if the moms strained the dye. At her house was a very large egg dyeing pot that her mom used once a year. She filled it with water and white eggs, and they became intensely red.

Anet also remembers that when she picked up a red egg to “chuck it” against a friend’s egg, some of the red dye came off on her new white gloves.

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