There’s a tradition, especially among the Greeks, of having red eggs for Pascha. It’s a tradition that has been passed down from one generation to the next as we break the fast together on Pascha. Where the Slavic traditions will bring a basket of food with them to be blessed by their priest, the Greek tradition is to receive a blessed, red egg from their priest after the Resurrection service. Both traditions share the commonality of breaking the fast together as a community.
These little traditions are teaching moments for our children. They are not, in any way, a necessity to our Orthodox Christian lives – but they allow for moments of conversation between the grown-ups and children. They are opportunities to explain our faith to our children while engaging them in an activity that will remain a lifelong memory for them.
The story goes that Mary Magdalene visited the Emperor Tiberius after Christ’s Resurrection. Mary was telling him how Christ had risen from the dead and the emperor mocked her saying that a man could no more rise from the dead than the egg in her hand could turn red. Immediately, the egg turned red in her hand and this is where our tradition for red eggs on Pascha originates.
Parents and grandparents alike have explained the symbolism of the red eggs to their children and grandchildren over the years – whether it’s while they are making them together on Holy Thursday, gazing at them in their hands after Liturgy on Pascha, or while they take that first bite after cracking it open with a triumphant, “Christ is Risen!”
Imagine the impact of a child’s grandmother cradling the red egg in the palm of her aged hand as she explains to her grandchild – “This egg is a story for you to remember all the days of your life. We dye the egg red to remember the blood shed by Christ as he died on the cross for us. The egg itself is a symbol of new life. And as you crack your egg against your friend’s egg and proclaim, ‘Christ is Risen!’ and they respond, ‘Truly He is Risen!’ you are remembering that the stone in front of Christ’s tomb was opened and He rose from the dead shattering the gates of Hades forever.”
We pulled out our dyes a little early this year so I could post about dyeing eggs before Holy Week. (Our dog thanked me though as she gobbled up a hard boiled egg last night. She’s pretty old and this year she’s decided that not having little pieces of meat scraps during Lent is unacceptable.)
I started prepping the kitchen yesterday afternoon for egg dyeing. My eighteen year old daughter came walking into the room to get a snack before going to her class and asked, “You’re not dyeing eggs without me are you?!” Interesting. I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal to her. I told her I’d hold off until she was done with class and she was obviously excited since she came straight home without any stops along the way.
Not only did she want to participate in this childhood tradition of hers but when I pulled out the science worksheets for the boys to go along with it, she told me, “This is the part of homeschooling I miss the most – the projects! I want to do it too.” Wow. Those are the moments parents live for. So I printed off another set for her and I enjoyed working with all four of my kids again on a project.
You can download a copy of the worksheets I made for my kids here: Red Dyes for Pascha Eggs
Our project was to see which dyeing method would give us the deepest red colored eggs. It didn’t occur to me until afterwards to use plain red food coloring too since that’s what my mom always used with us growing up. Oh well.
We decided to experiment with white, brown, and blue eggs using the eggs we get from our chickens to see if we’d get different results with them. We most certainly did!
We attempted to dye our first set of eggs using red onion skins per the directions on this site. I wasn’t really going for perfect technique with my kids. It was more about getting the hands on experience for them thus I have no doubt that we missed some small trick along the way to get them more red than brown.
Next, we moved on to the cold method of dyeing eggs. I knew the Greek dye would turn the eggs a dark red since it’s specifically made for that but I was curious about a pin I saw on Pinterest using Kool-Aid. I also included the kiddie Easter dye as well for comparison sake.
It was interesting to see the differences in our results. The PAAS dye turned out the palest even though we followed the directions on the box for the “vivid” dye color. Although, it was probably the kid friendliest of the cold method dyeing since it didn’t turn our fingers red. The Greek dye turned out the best but also left it’s mark on everything it touched. The Kool-Aid did a decent job as far as color is concerned but it rubbed off extremely easily. We also found that the brown eggs were the best for getting the deepest red color.
After all the wonderful feedback, I attempted a third time to dye eggs using onion skins. You can see the results from that test here: Dyeing with Onion Skins for Pascha Gets a Third Chance
And since my results on the third attempt were still not exactly what I wanted…I attempted to dye the eggs red using onion skins a fourth time. Much better.