Excitement built as I watched the bowls being set out - three, four, five - until there were at least six. Then water and a spoonful of vinegar were added to each, and finally the small aspirin-sized tablets, which slowly dissolved and bled out in the most brilliant colors of red, blue, yellow, orange, green and purple. mom brought out the carton of hard-boiled eggs and I set about creating masterpieces. The first six were easy - one of each color - but after that there were decisions to be made. How could I best combine more than one color on an egg? What should I draw or write with the colorless wax crayon that would repel the color on the egg's shell? How long I left the egg in determined how dark the color and experimentation was part of the fun. Sometimes the results were dazzling; usually not, but I always wished for more than the dozen I was allotted.
The hunts were another thing. Before I ever went to one, I remember hearing of them and I'm sure made known, as children are wont to do, that I really wanted to experience such a marvelous, challenging activity. One year, my oldest sister took me to the large public one held in a downtown city park. To me, "hunt" meant exactly that, and required a certain skill and tenacity to successfully find the hidden treasures. What disappointment I felt when we finally arrived to see the lawn littered with colored eggs and to find that the hunt was really a stampede and over in a matter of minutes. Being shy and unassertive put me at a definite disadvantage, and I decided that Easter egg hunts weren't all they were cracked up to be.
But in the home of my childhood, Easter morning was a sheer delight. There was a special basket filled with candy and a stuffed toy. And because Montana springs were always cold, and often snowy, there was a real hunt for the many small nests, skillfully hidden throughout the house with tiny candy eggs in each one. Months later, someone would likely find one or two of these nests that had escaped detection. I had no idea then why eggs appeared at Easter - I only knew I liked that they were a part of our tradition.
In many ancient cultures, eggs were a common symbol of new life and immortality; in Egypt, Greece, Italy, and Persia, they were dyed for spring festivals. In medieval times, Christians adapted the egg to their own religious devotions by giving up the eating of them during Lent, then giving beautifully decorated ones as gifts on Easter morning as a symbol of joy and celebration.