A Rhetoric of Easter Eggs

When I was a child, I loved painting Easter eggs with my family. For the Polish, egg painting (pisanka) is an art-form and serious business. Crayons and warm colored vinegar washes were inadequate. Like many American Poles, we held on to our traditions. My grandparents, parents, my brother, and I would sit around the table a couple days before Easter and paint, draw, etch, and yarn over eggs. We painted one another’s names on our eggs and exchanged them at Easter dinner. My grandmother always praised us for their beauty – even when we clumsily combined paint colors or misspelled her name.

My mother was a semi-professional artist, and she fired ceramic eggs that we displayed year after year. We blew the yolks out of eggs, painted them, and stored the delicate shells in tissue paper to reuse. Every Good Friday we opened the box of Easter decorations to see which eggs survived storage.

Now, when I walk into a store and see the racks of garish, plastic eggs I wonder what message we’re sending about Easter. This kind of Easter seems cheap and disposable. For me, a plastic Easter egg has no warmth, family, or pleasure. Easter is pickled beets, lamb-shaped butter, and my grandparents singing in Polish. The celebration and feast after the long sacrifices of Lent cannot be contained in something bought at a store.

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