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Egg-Cellent Traditions

Easter is not only a wonderful holiday to revisit your favorite springtime haunts, but it's also a time of creation and new life. The painted egg is one of its happiest symbols.

For centuries, eggs have played an important role in springtime celebrations.
 
By Juddi Morris
April 2015
 
Easter is not only a wonderful holiday to revisit your favorite springtime haunts, but it's also a time of creation and new life. The painted egg is one of its happiest symbols.
 
One legend says that the custom of coloring Easter eggs was started by members of a North African group of Christians. But the egg has always been highly regarded throughout the world, and not just as a wonderful source of food. Ancient philosophers believed the egg represented the universe, with the shell signifying the earth, the white symbolizing water, and the yolk, fire. Primitive sun-worshippers thought the yolk represented the sun, the giver of all life. Polynesians and others were convinced the world was hatched from an egg. Ancient Romans honored the legendary twins, Castor and Pollux, who were said to have been hatched from an egg.
 
In medieval Europe, people gave up meat and eggs during Lent to conserve food during the long, cruel winters. By Easter they were famished, and a hen, duck, or goose egg was a precious thing. In some countries, hungry children roamed from house to house begging for eggs. In parts of Europe, children still trek through their neighborhoods asking for Easter eggs in “trick-or-treat” style.
 
One legend traces the practice of hiding decorated eggs to a German duchess, also in medieval times. She took village children into the woods the day before Easter and persuaded them to make nests out of moss. Later, she returned and placed eggs decorated in various colors in the nests. On Easter day, the children ran back to the woods and were excited by their discovery. They startled a small hare, which hopped away, and concluded the eggs had been brought by the hares.
 
In many countries, Easter festivities included egg games and contests. Bird eggs were sometimes used, but some people celebrated the coming of spring by dancing around a pile of snake eggs! 
 
Probably the best known Easter egg frolic in the United States is the White House Easter Egg Roll. It first took place either in 1862 or 1864, when Abraham Lincoln was president, according to the National First Ladies’ Library. The tradition continues today, with children hunting eggs and rolling eggs, and the Easter Bunny making an appearance. If the president is in town, he mingles with the happy egg rollers. 
 
Fredericksburg, Texas, is the site of another interesting Easter egg custom, which legend says began the night before Easter in 1847. The area’s German settlers had negotiated a peace treaty with neighboring Comanche Indians. According to local lore, after Indians lit signal fires on the hills above the town, a mother calmed her frightened children by explaining that the flames were started by rabbits who were cooking eggs for Easter morning. 
 
Easter Fires became the town’s springtime tradition, one that is also rooted in an ancient German custom of lighting hilltop bonfires to celebrate the coming of spring. Today, at the appointed time on the Saturday before Easter, church bells ring and town lights are extinguished. Bonfires are lit atop as many as 22 hills flanking the town. Then on Easter morning, the town’s children spill out across the hillsides with their decorated baskets to search for colored eggs.
 
Many other towns and cities also hold special Easter egg hunts for children. Games and activities with painted eggs are great fun, but the egg holds a deeper spiritual meaning for many people. For them, Easter symbolizes the miracle of new life. 
 
Following are some egg-inspired recipes.
 
Hash Brown Frittata
 
This simple, quick, and tasty egg dish can be made in a microwave oven for an Easter breakfast or brunch. 
 
2 cups frozen hash brown potatoes
1/2 cup fresh mushrooms
1/4 chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped sweet red pepper
4 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
 
Place potatoes, mushrooms, onion, and pepper in a 9-inch microwave-safe pie pan coated with nonstick spray. Cover with plastic wrap. Cook on full power until the pepper is crisp-tender, about 4 to 6 minutes. Beat together the eggs, milk, and garlic salt until blended. Stir the mixture into the vegetables. Cover and cook in the microwave oven on full power until just set but still moist, about 6 to 8 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and let stand about 1 minute to complete cooking time.

Makes four servings.


 
Easter Egg Nests
 
Kids love these Easter treats!
 
1 7-ounce jar marshmallow crème (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine
1 5-ounce can chow mein noodles (about 3 cups)
2 cups colored jelly beans
 
Combine marshmallow crème, peanut butter, and butter (or margarine). Mix until well blended. Add the noodles and mix well. Drop the mixture in 1/3-cup portions onto a greased cookie sheet or a sheet lined with wax paper. With greased fingers, shape the mixture to form nests. Let stand until firm, and then add two to three jelly beans to each nest. Makes 10 to 12 nests.