They can be any type of egg, from chicken to ostrich, but for an Easter in Germany they are usually white, then colored and/or decorated. Dyed by boiling or soaking in a vegetable, fruit, or straight from a packet or tube colored mix. Then hand painted, scratched, waxed, outlined with lemon juice or even pierced into a design with a tooth drill.
Whatever method is chosen to decorate Easter eggs there will be very few on a German Easter Sunday breakfast table, or "hidden by the Easter Bunny", which have not been beautified in one way or another.
Decorating eggs is a popular custom in Germany, especially during Easter.
The absolute experts are the Sorbs. A Slavic minority living on the eastern side of the country, along the border with Poland and the Czech Republic, they produce stunning examples all year round. "Collectors" items that are often covered with ultra-fine embroidery, among other embellishments.
For those of us amateurs who perhaps decorate eggs once a year, there are other ways to make sure we have some beautifully decorated eggs hanging from branches in our homes, or gardens, as an "Osterstrauch", for adding to Easter wreaths or simply gracing our tables.
First some tips before you start your Easter egg decorating, whatever method of coloring you use.
Use shells from free range eggs as not only will the life of the chicken be "happier", the shells are thicker and it will be easier to blow them out if you are intending to keep them.
Eggs that have been hard boiled do not "last forever" so your "masterpiece" will have to be thrown away, while the healthier shell of an egg from a free range hen also means the colors and decorations you use are really enhanced.
White eggs are best because the end color results are more authentic.
And last but not least, rub the shells of the eggs with vinegar before coloring. This takes away any grease, smooths the chalk layer so the color remains longer and looks much fresher.
If you are not sure about the first steps here is an easy to follow 'How To' for coloring eggs.
The preparations out of the way, now to begin:
.....The egg can be re-dyed to create different colors and shades, a design can be scratched onto the egg shell with a sharp needle before or after it is dyed, or dyed for the second time, both methods are really successful.
.....Un-dyed or already colored it is used as a base for all types of decorations, from small dried flower petals and beads, to feathers and patchwork.
.....Petals, small leaves, a flattened parsley or ivy leaf looks especially effective, small stars, or any cut out shape can be placed on the egg before dying, either for the first or second dying session, and secured with nylon hose. Leave the hose, and leaf or whatever, on the egg until it is dry.
.....Melt white candle stubs and pour the melted wax into a container. (This should be a carefully supervised or adults only step). Place pressed or flat flowers onto the egg, then with a small paint brush or cotton bud dab melted wax on each flower, covering then completely and making a slight rim around them. Allow the wax to dry then dye the egg as usual, a pale shade works very well. The wax will keep the dye from affecting the flower, and its slight outline, while making sure it sticks to the egg.
.....An egg can be wrapped in threads, twine, or rubber bands of different thicknesses before it is dyed, this will give a type of batik effect.
.....Small pieces of newspaper stuck on the egg to cover it completely turn it into an "Zeitung - Osterei", newspaper Easter Egg.
.....Wearing rubber gloves you can rub dye on areas of a warm egg, repeat with another color as often as you like and you will end up with a ‘one off’ marbled effect.
.....For a "splatter paint" finish place your egg on a very well covered surface, and wear an apron. Using an old toothbrush filled with color either shake it directly onto the egg or through a tea strainer, allow to dry between colors if you have the time, but it is not absolutely necessary. The end effect could almost be pointillism.
.....A design can be "painted" on the egg with a thin brush and wax or lemon juice. The dye will not take in these places leaving behind a pattern or shape, and this can be done through several color changes working from the lightest shade to the darkest. Once again giving an alternative look to your colored egg.
.....While a small fine drill can be used to make cut outs through the shell and form shapes, outlines or silhouettes.
Don’t forget to rub the finished egg with a little oil, this brightens and accentuates the colors as well as giving a shine.
So the work is over and your decorated Easter eggs are ready, and it is time to hang them from trees in the garden, or twigs and branches in the home, add them to a wreath, or use them to decorate your traditional plaited German Easter Bread on the breakfast table.
Decorating eggs has been a German custom for centuries, especially at Easter, but it is one that gives pleasure at any time, and "personalized eggs", decorated especially for whoever is going to receive them in mind, are given as gifts for any, and many, occasions.
The decorated red eggs are "Kreative Ostereierkunst" © Osterei Museum Sonnenbuehl in Baden-Wuerttemberg.
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