Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Ancient Spring Legends became modern day traditions...

While planning my Spring post I decided it might be interesting to explore the origins and legends of Easter and include a few of Passover. Recently John and I were reminiscing about Easter when we were kids. I will weave those remembrances in and share more of myself in the process. My poetry is titled Wondrous Legends, hope you enjoy.

I am Polish, first generation on my Dad's side, second on my Mom's. I grew up with very traditional customs being observed and celebrated. John is second generation Italian on both sides of his family. We share very similar upbringings, each middle children and both born with a sense of adventure with close knit family ties.

Easter is the holiest day of the year for Christians. After 40 days of Lent and a fast it is celebrated by attending Church service followed by a huge feast. Easter is a moveable feast occurring after the Full Moon following the Vernal Equinox on the next Sunday.
Unless it interferes with Passover and then it's the Sunday after. Any Sunday from March 22 - April 25th Easter can be celebrated. 

Passover is always on the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox. Passover is the Jewish Spring festival celebrating their liberation from the Israelites 3,300 years ago from Egyptian slavery. Passover lasts 7-8 days from the 15th day of the Hebrew month Nissan (usually April). First night is the Seder, a ritual dinner telling the story of Exodus.

When my son was 2 and I was newly divorced, a year before John entered into our lives and hearts we were invited by the parents of my best friend to share a Passover Seder with them. I had never attended a Seder before but was aware it is a ritual dinner telling the story of Exodus. I spent a mesmerizing evening sharing Jewish customs and Seder foods.

We were instructed to envision Egypt and the Israelites suffering from persecution while leaving to cross the Sea of Reeds, while God parted the water to pass. Seder starts with the reading of the Kiddush over a cup of wine. Each person has 4 cups to drink (small cups) of wine at the Seder. Wine is used because it symbolizes joy and happiness in marking the four great merits while the Israel's were in Exile. 

1. They kept their Hebrew names
2. Spoke their own language
3. Remained highly moral
4. Remaining loyal to one another.

Easter for Christians is Resurrection Sunday. We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The resurrection is the center of the Christian faith. Without Easter there would be no Christianity.

The Easter egg is an ancient fertility symbol of the rising of the Vernal Equinox, Spring meaning rebirth. Many, many years ago Christians would dye Easter eggs Red to symbolize the color of Christ's blood. Orthodox churches abstain from eggs during the fast of lent. To keep them from spoiling they were hard boiled and by coloring them it would bring a touch of Spring indoors.

The tradition of dying Easter eggs has wandered and now kids want dyed eggs to be colorful and fun to resemble their Easter baskets jelly beans!

My Dad's parents owned a Chicken farm just outside of Frenchtown, NJ and Easter always meant lots of eggs to dye. Even my Dads Brother Bruno raised chickens at his and my Aunt Clara's farm, so eggs as a kid were plentiful.

One of my fondest memories on Easter morning was our egg fight with Mom, Dad and my brothers. An egg cracking game with the goal to be the last uncracked contender.

My Grandmother was into natural dying her Easter eggs. I remember she would save up onion skins for months and put them into a nylon stocking that hung in their farmhouse kitchen. Grandma dyed eggs with Beets too, but it was the brown eggs that turned russet from the boiling onion skins I would select for my egg to fight with. Forget the pretty colored pastel eggs, even as a kid I knew the eggs dyed with onions produced harder protected shells. 

So did I ever win? Sure, a couple of times. But the fun was always afterwards with my brothers continuing to smash the eggs until they were pulverized bits of shells. Lots of laughter and fun bringing out the competitive nature in our family. John's family did not engage in an Easter egg fight and up until research for this post I thought it might be a Polish tradition.

But live and learn ... So what are some of the countries who partake in the Easter egg fight? India, Serbia, Netherlands, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and the Jewish culture to name a few.

Our favorite Italian Easter specialties are the sweet breads and Ricotta cheese pie.
There are also Hot cross buns and sweet breads marked with an X to symbolize the cross. The breads are risen breads with the eggs baked in. Yeast sweet breads were perhaps a desire for Easter traditions to be different than Passover which is unleavened bread.

The photo is of a Polish bukka. This is what I grew up eating each Easter. But as John and I over the years joined our traditions together we now eat both. For Easter every year until Mom passed would bake a Lamb cake in a mold. Mom would zone out in a inspired coconut haze and with green food dye color the shredded coconut for the grass under the Lamb. The cake recipe was a yummy moist lemon pound cake. The Lamb was iced with buttercream and then Mom applied it's wool of shredded White coconut. It wasn't a Lamb yet until Mom cut a Black jelly bean in half for his nose and pushed raisins in for his eyes. Flowers would be piped out of a pastry bag to adorn the Lamb's neck.

I miss those cakes and asked Kevin just last week what ever became of Moms Lamb mold. He's looking for it and hopefully there will be annual Easter Lamb cake once again.

As a kid we would have Easter dinner with my Dads brother Bruno and Aunt Clara. Kielbasa and grated fresh horseradish would start the meal. My Uncle Bruno would break out in a sweat a day earlier grating the root. The years it was extra hot Uncle Bruno would mix it with beet juice to take the heat down a notch. The Polish call the horseradish Chrzan. We also would eat horseradish with our Easter Ham. 67 percent of Americans serve Ham on Easter. John remembers both Leg of Lamb and Ham for his Easter meals.

Curly Lambeau was lonely ... Penny White of Angelsdoor blog created both Curly and little Dixie with a dark chocolate face and don't you think they make an adorable couple? Penny named her and I added Louise, so meet little sweet Dixie Louise.
The large metal silhouette of the urn is by Rosemary of Villabarnes blog and etsy store.

Close up of Dixie Louise. 

Our Simon when he was a kitten, took a catnap on Easter Sunday on top our antique Senufo African Stool and surprisingly he woke up a bunny rabbit. 

Inside my French Ballet theatre from Burlap Luxe I've staged a Easter Bunny production.

The Easter Bunny Rabbit is an interesting legend from the 1500's. Rabbits and Hares were popular medieval church art. Back then belief was that Hares and Rabbits were Hermaphrodites who could reproduce without losing its virginity. An association with the Virgin Mary. Eggs are fertility symbols of the ancient past, symbolizing the rising fertility of the Vernal Equinox.

The tradition of the Easter bunny appears in drawings often in clothes as he carries colored eggs in a basket along with candy and toys for good girls and boys. The American belief in the Easter Bunny was first introduced in Pennsylvania by the German settlers.

Centuries ago the Northwestern European folklore had the Easter Bunny as a Hare. The legend tells of only good children receiving a gift of colored eggs in nests that they made in their Easter bonnets during the start of Eastertide.

An adorable bunny on a swing and urn silhouette I taped miniature tulips to. (Links at bottom of my post).

The Polish have a tradition on Holy Saturday called "Swieconka" which means the blessing of the Easter baskets.

As a child my Mom would make up our straw Easter baskets with green Easter grass and lots of jelly beans as a filler. I have no affection for jelly beans, nope not at all. Every year a milk chocolate bunny, a chick, a White chocolate Lamb and a cross and an chocolate butter cream egg. Generous yes, but all but the Bunny were small. When we were kids all our Easter chocolates were solid. 

John remembers receiving a very similar Easter basket of treats. John was one of those kids that bite the Bunnies ears off first. YIKES! I would ask my Dad to break my bunny into pieces because I couldn't bring myself to biting off the tail or ears!

It wasn't until I became a Mother and assembled my son Chris's Easter basket I realized the symbolism and love my Mom put into my brothers and my baskets. When my son was young Cadbury eggs with the gooey yolk centers and Jelly Bellies were very popular, especially with Chris. Chocolate Bunnies and a Lamb plus Cross were always part of his basket along with a scattering of car toys. As strong as my indifference to Jelly beans is my son loved Jelly Bellies and every Easter he'd engage in a bean tasting of each flavor following with his review as if they were a fine reserved wine.
Funny with each flavor he would change his reviews! Cherished memories we hold precious and dear.

"What is the real purpose behind the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus? They seem like greater steps toward faith and imagination, each with a payoff. Like cognitive training exercises."
~Chuck Palahniuk~

There are many intriguing stories told in life's wondrous picture book,
Most have developed out of religious customs and deserve a further look.

The legend of the Easter Bunny originated in 13th century pre-Christian Germany a very long, long time ago...
And ever since Easter Bunny's been laying eggs and hiding them in the garden the legend has been told.

A Bunny laying eggs in a garden, oh my, such an amazing concept and magical power!
Bunny hiding eggs amongst the Spring flowers for an Easter egg hunt to delight children for hours.

Magicians pull a rabbit out of their hat and we all know it as an idiom - yes but of course.
But throughout all these years believing Easter Bunny lays eggs the Christian legend still does endorse.

Well without doubt "Believe" to me has always been the most magical word in my active imagination.
The egg roll on the White House lawn on Easter Monday started when Dolly Madison made her proclamation.

Kids enjoy a romp on the lawn seeking out eggs and partaking in the egg roll,
while adults watch and cheer and enjoy a pleasurable Springtime outdoor stroll.

Legend is written the Easter Bunny evaluates children's behavior and rewards good girls and boys.
Sounds like the original legend of Christmas with Jolly old Saint Nick who delivers toys.

It's said if you want to raise intelligent children read Fairytales to them which I believe with all my heart,
There is a artful joy weaving together mythical stories and knowing it will enable our children to mature smart.

Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Santa Claus all very creative legends for both young and old.
Never loss sight of the magical allure of these wonderful Fairytales throughout generations being told.

© Vera

I prefer Easter eggs dyed naturally, it is just my personal choice. If you would like to dye naturally below Is a guide from Apartment Therapy's kitchen blog from last year. I grew up with both, eggs dyed with natural vegetables and food colored eggs. In recent years John and I dye naturally. If you've never tried it you will be amazed at the beauty of non-toxic naturally dyes eggs.

Naturally-Dyed Easter Eggs
Per cup of water use:
  • 1 cup chopped purple cabbage — makes blue on white eggs, green on brown eggs
  • 1 cup red onion skins — makes lavender or red eggs
  • 1 cup yellow onion skins — makes orange on white eggs, rusty red on brown eggs
  • 1 cup shredded beets — makes pink on white eggs, maroon on brown eggs
  • 2 tablespoons ground turmeric — makes yellow eggs
  • 1 bag Red Zinger tea — makes lavender eggs
→ Add 1 tablespoon white vinegar to every cup of strained dye liquid
→ For every dozen eggs, plan on using at least 4 cups of dye liquid

Bunny on swing -  healoom from her etsy shop
Urn in theatre and large urn in Curly and Dixie's photo http://www.villabarnes.com
Curly and Dixie wool needle felted Lambs and Brown Bunny in theatre Penny White 
French Ballet Theatre, Doré Callaway of http://burlapluxe.blogspot.com and her etsy store.

Photos 3,4,6,8,9,14 and 16 - Google image # 5 source is Bon Appétit
All others taken by me-Vera

Blessings to you during Eastertide and Passover.



  1. What a wonderful, wonderful presentation here, Vera. I read every word. I love all the traditions and to know more about them. I have never had the pleasure of attending seder dinner. What a blessing to be able to do that.

    Your Easter basket sounds much like my own as a child...but...we never had an egg fight. lol I think my mother was too frugal to have ever allowed that.

    Isn't it wonderful to have such great memories....and how your hubby's are similar and yet different?

    Loved your poem, Vera. xo Diana

  2. I loved learning about your family traditions and celebrations, Vera! It's so good to rehearse wonderful childhood memories that set each of our families apart in a special way. Easter is such a beautiful time of year, culminating in the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus!
    I really enjoyed this post and appreciate you sharing the history of other traditions as well.
    Mary Alice

  3. I had never heard of an egg fight, Vera. My husband is Polish on his mother's side. I'll have to ask him if his family had egg fights. I attended a Seder at a friend's home years ago. It was a moving experience. One of my favorite memories of Easter is the sunrise services at the church I attended in Southern California. Later, when I lived in Columbus, Ohio, our church always had a pancake breakfast after the Easter service. It was a wonderful time of fellowship and celebration. The cartoon of the chocolate bunnies is funny. Like you, I could never myself to bite into the bunny. That lasted for several days until finally I'd break off pieces and eat them. The foil wrapped solid chocolate eggs have always been my favorite Easter candy. Thanks for this illuminating post. Love your poem and the Easter production. The lambs are cute, too. Hugs, Nancy

  4. This was so sweet to read Vera. So much I did not know and now have learned through your writings. Love your recalling all your family traditions. My girls at 31 and 27 still insist on the Easter Egg Hunt. We fill plastic eggs with candy, toys and money and then hide them throughout the house. Now with my granddaughter it is so much fun to see her just as delighted as my girls were to hunt for the eggs. Loved your post today.

  5. Hi Vera, what a wonderful and delightful post. I love all the history as well as reading your family traditions growing up and as a family. We have always colored eggs with food coloring but I loved knowing your recipes for natural dyes.
    My grandmother and mother always made Easter bread with the egg baked right in. It was so delicious and we looked forward to it every year. We too always had ham. Today I make a pork tenderloin with all the trimming and my family always looks forward to this.

    I have never heard of the Easter egg fight, but we always had egg hunts and I remember my mother always making up a darling basket with green grass and solid bunnies too. I have 2 of those vintage baskets in my collection and treasure those from childhood.

    Easter brings so many different and wonderful memories for us all. I remember fondly getting our Easter outfits and going to church then later gathering with family for a special dinner my mother or grandmother would make.
    Thank you for sharing your memories and Easter history.
    Loved your poem too.

    Wishing you a very Happy Springtime and Easter.
    Hugs and Blessings, CM

  6. Vera, you always put so much heart into your posts. So informative, creative, and, inspiring. Your vignettes are fabulous. Thanks for the mention.xoxo

  7. Vera! Really... this is ten posts :))) So I will visit again and again. Laughed out loud seing the "bunny rabbit cat", my Hobbit would never LET us do this. As he is a DIVA. Hahaha.
    About all the easter tradition I will learn a lot here, my religion is with nature, more the wicca path, so I will do nests on branches, to celebrate the feast.
    Have a wonderful spring and eastertime, thank you sooo much, and the hundred clicks more, that is me... ;)) Your friend Méa

  8. Vera,
    Your collection of Easter traditions is amazing. I love the bunny on the swing in the little theater. Growing up we always had Easter egg hunts in the yard, but never any egg fights. Mother and I always had new Easter dresses. Mother and my grandmother always had Easter corsages, also. I haven't seen anyone wearing an Easter corsage in many years.


  9. My precious friend, I am literally on the run here; I needed some extra sleep this morning but that means less time on the computer! I will be back to fully read your great post here....BUNNIES, EGGS, TRADITION, this is the time! I will be back...Anita

  10. So many new things I've learned today. Lovely post as always, Vera.

  11. Vera, I am touched by your references of my parents. Yes, Easter was very special in our house. I have my mother's lamb cake mold,but make a carrot cake in it when I used it. I'm not sure if I still have the original recipe.

  12. Hi Vera, I love the history going back 13th century With the celebration of Easter. It's really nice to see how it's not changed to much from then until now, as well as how family's all over celebrate in ways that differ yet similar.
    Our night before Easter started with baths and shampooing of hair to then sit, my sister and I to get our hair set in pin curls or rag ties, to then wake with two brothers my sister and myself dressing and combing out our hair for Easter photos all lined up in our Easter best. We went on a hunt to find our Easter baskets with candies much like your basket filled for your son Chris'.

    We always had a basket filled with a paper cardboard bunny in pastel died baskets hanging on the Benny's back filled with candied jelly beans.
    And chocolate fudge homemade and wrapped ever so delightful.
    Then off to Church service, and then a big community Easter egg hunt with the thought of being the one who found the Golden egg. In these hunts it was a really big deal to find this egg! It was always filled with. $100.00 bill and the finder of the Golden Egg was always pictured in the news paper.

    We dyed out eggs with Easter egg dyes, yet would have loved growing up making your families natural dyes, that would have been a learning experiance.
    Love how your blog/etsy finds made it into your post and how much pleasure you get out of creating seasonally with each chosen etsy piece.

    This post makes me want to once again create an old fashioned Easter basket.
    As for choclates and chocolate bunnies it's a must here in our home. And that whole tail and ear thing as kids we compared ours to each other's carefully biting off less important spots on the bunny Me! Leaving the head for last. Your right, so right about feeling sad to eat parts of the bunny, we too felt that same endearment to our chocolate bunnies.
    As for the little bunny joke....I have seen them around for years and still am amused by them :)

    Thank you Vera, for the big head start to Easter here. It was a wonderful holiday posting.


    PS. I hope they find that lamb cake mold for you! :)

  13. Dear Vera,
    I so enjoyed reading this beautiful Easter post! What wonderful traditions you have.. I am a Catholic, but have always been interested in the Jewish faith. I love how you and John have joined your traditions...

    I still have fond memories of Easter Sunday driving to Church with my parents and granparents.. All dressed in white chiffon. We would return to Memo's (grandmother) home and have a late lunch and they it was time for Easter egg hunt.. To this day, I still have no idea how she got such brilliant colors on the eggs she colored.. They were almost a metallic...
    Thank you so much for all the history and sharing your story.. I truly enjoyed it.
    And I am honored that you shared the little lambs..
    Easter blessings to you,

  14. Love the little theatre with the bunnies Vera.
    A very informative and wonderful post. The traditions we did as children and then bestowed on our children travel with us through life.
    I hope you and yours enjoy each and every minute of your Easter celebrations.
    I for one have to work an auction all weekend.
    Susan x

  15. What a great post, Vera. It is always fun to hear of the traditions that other cultures celebrate for the holidays. Your French ballet theater is just darling! I bet you had fun creating your cute and adorable vignettes. And your kitty is too funny with the bunny ears!! I had a gray kitty that looked just like yours many years ago. His name was Fred, and he was the best cat. Wishing you a peaceful Easter season:)

  16. Dear Vera -
    Thanks for sharing this post - I enjoyed learning about your family's lovely traditions. We used to spend a lot of time in Lambertville, NJ, which is not far from Frenchtown. That is a beautiful area. And thanks for the history on Easter.

  17. It really is a pleasure to learn how different cultures and religions celebrate. I didn't know you were Polish, nor did I know any of your traditions so this was quite interesting. The Easter egg fight...how fun!!! And the natural dying of the eggs, I will experiment next year for sure! I never had the good fortune to be at a Seder meal, but I had a friend who was invited one year (and she wasn't Jewish), and she was so, so impressed and grateful.

    I really liked hearing the origin of bunnies and eggs. Sometimes I worry that with Santa and elves and the Easter Bunny and baskets, that we commercialize sacred holidays. We need a few gentle reminders and to share them with our children.

    Bravo on another wonderful poem! When can we expect your book? :) I will be first in line!!

    Jane xx

  18. Dear Vera! Good morning! I came by yesterday off my phone in a whirlwind at work....could not leave a proper comment.

    Oh this time of year is so special for me because of so many reasons. My birthday is in April, and my memories of Easter "en famille" are numerous. Living in California, it was easy to have Easter egg hunts and I can still recollect the smell of the St. Augustine grass under our feet in my Aunt's backyard. I can remember the hot asphalt melting under my black patent leather soles at Disneyland on Easter Sunday, and the scratch of tulle from my petticoat under my new Easter dress.

    As an adult, sunrise services on the beach in Beverly, Massachusetts. Even here in Minneapolis, we run to Lake Harriet for a sunrise service in our car over the lake. The lifting of the sun is so metaphorical on Easter, and every morning.

    Wishing you a BELOVED Eastertime as you celebrate the loves in your life! XOXO Anita

  19. I loved this post, Vera and hung n every word! So beautifully told and the poem a treat I'm going to pin to hang on to. Happy Easter!

  20. So informative, legends and traditions..... the most meaningful EASTER and all that it promises. Love your ballet theatre and decor.

    ~ Violet

  21. A really sweet post, Vera. I look forward to your theatre throughout the year!

  22. So beautiful, Vera! Thank you so much for sharing your traditions and memories ~ I love when people do that. :) I also appreciate the history, much of which I was unaware. Love Dixie, your theater and all your treasures!


  23. P.S. I forgot to say how much I loved your egg fight story! Such fun for kids and something else I was unaware of. I've never attended a Seder dinner but would love to ~ I think it would be so special and reverent.

    Thank you again for sharing!

  24. Great poem, with a lot of wisdom. I love all your traditions. Growing up, we did a little of everything during this special season. I love your ballet theatre! It's precious.

  25. Such a great post, dear heart. Loved every bit of it.
    And...the little rabbit cartoon has been one of my favorites for years. LOL
    We always went to a sunrise service on Easter morning, breakfast, church service, egg hunt and a ham dinner with family. Still do pretty much the same today.
    Again, really love this post. :)

  26. Dear Vera,
    Thank you so much for your visit and your thoughtful words..
    I wish you a peaceful Palm Sunday .
    Sending you a warm hug

  27. Vera, I love hearing about your life and family. We don't celebrate Easter but of course the girls want to be apart of the celebrations. I think this year I am making them Easter baskets. I saw that my local bakery was making the sweet Easter bread so I ordered some for us. Lots of love and hugs, Victoria

  28. Vera, this is so interesting! Even though I celebrate Easter, I learned many things!! Your little lambs are SO sweet, and that pic of Simon is priceless! :)

  29. Way too much to comment on using only my left hand.

    Suffice it to say that I loved reading it all and my favorite part was finding another connection between us. My father's parents' also had a chicken ranch.

  30. Your post is absolutely amazing and so interesting Vera

  31. I just got home from work, and found it so enjoyable to relax while reading your sweet post, Vera. Lots of fun and interesting information here. Your images are entertaining as well.
    Have a joyous Easter Weekend, dear friend.

  32. Oh Vera
    I enjoyed reading about your childhood Easters - they were very special.
    I had a similar background judging by your second photo - and Easter was full of ritual.
    Starting with Good Friday and the Stations of the Cross, then Holy Saturday and the long awaited Easter Sunday when there was no restraint on chocolate and beautiful food!
    Both Polish and Italian have rich traditions and amazing sense of the importance of family!

    Wishing you and your family a very Happy and Joyous Easter.

  33. Dear Vera,
    Thank you so much for taking a stroll down the avenue with dear Bebe.
    We did know each other when I sent Bebe on her Summer Adventures..
    If you ever care to view them, you can find them on my side bar at the bottom of the page... It all started in 2010..
    I hope to have her travel once again this summer.
    Wishing you a beautiful Easter dear friend.
    Love and blessings,

  34. Popping back in to wish you & John a very Happy Easter!

  35. Hope you had a Happy Easter!!! Thanks for all your kind comments this year.

  36. Hi Vera, I hope this comment goes through I have been off blogging and tried to leave you a comment earlier so I will try again. I have been wanting to visit to say hi, I have heard many lovely things about you and also wanted to thank you for your nice comment you left at Burlap luxe on my farm house dishes that I designed and gifted to Dore. Thank You it means a lot me. I also love your post on al The Easter Traditions. I can related coming from a large Italian family. You can imagine...any way hope this comment goes through and hope to get to know you better through blogging. God Bless you xo laura

  37. above comment does not link you to visit me. www.verbenanestedtreasures.blogspot.com

  38. Good evening dear Vera..... You are so welcome.. Good to know you can use the info. It is always a treat to see you have come over for a visit.. I am blessed to call you my friend.
    Wishing you a wonderful week.