I have to admit, holidays stress me out. There is so much to think about – decorations to make or get out of storage, family events to plan or attend, food to make, gifts or supplies to purchase ahead of time, haircuts to schedule for three handsome boys, fancy clothes to be dug out of the back of the closet, the list goes on and on. And now that we have started a family of our own, we are trying to create our own family traditions that we hope our kids will one day look back upon fondly and say, “remember when we all used to dye Easter eggs together?” or “remember those family Easter egg hunts when we would run around like crazy to see who could collect the most eggs?”. I have to be really careful that my lists of preparations don’t get in the way of making those memories. Because I don’t want my kids to remember a stressed out Mommy that didn’t enjoy our time together on the holidays. And I certainly don’t want them to grow up thinking that Easter and Halloween and Christmas are just about the “stuff” that they receive from a fictitious animal or a big guy in a red suit.
To give you a mental image of my internal struggle, you can imagine me with a miniature Martha Stewart sitting on one of my shoulders telling me that I can do it all by hand and make it look effortless while a teeny tiny Dalai Lama sits cross-legged on the other shoulder urging me to live in the present moment and remember the spirit of the holiday rather than the commercial side that we see everywhere we turn (watch out, the stores will be carrying Halloween decorations before you know it!). And I know that, for me, the answer is somewhere in between. Because the truth is that I truly enjoy the homemade recipes and crafts that go along with the holidays. But maybe I don’t have to do it ALL. Maybe just one recipe and one craft per holiday can be enough. And if they don’t turn out perfectly, maybe that’s okay, too. We will still have fun making homemade memories together as a family!
Here are two traditions that we have decided to include in our annual Easter celebrations…
Natural Easter Egg Dyes
We tried this for the first time last year and the kids really enjoyed it! It was a fun family activity that we definitely plan to repeat. It was also a great way for the kids to understand the difference between those artificial dyes that Mommy is always griping about when they are on the ingredient list and natural food-based dyes that are totally safe to eat. I only had to pick up a few things at the grocery store – pomegranate juice and tea bags – the rest of the ingredients were already in our fridge, freezer, or cupboards. Here are the foods that we used as natural dyes:
RED – pomegranate juice
ORANGE – paprika
YELLOW – ground turmeric
GREEN – spinach leaves
BLUE – frozen blueberries
PURPLE – Red Zinger tea bags
Whether you are using the foods listed above or want to try a different one, such as red cabbage, coffee, or beets, here is the quick and easy method you will use to dye the eggs. Be sure to plan ahead and leave extra time for dyeing as the natural method will take longer for the color to adhere to the egg shells.
Step 1: Place the fruit, veggie, or spice in a pot with 4 cups of water plus 2 tablespoons of white vinegar. If using a juice, just add 4 cups of juice and omit the water. If using a fruit or veggie, add 4 cups of the whole food to the water and vinegar. If using a spice, add 4 tablespoons of spice to the water and vinegar in the pot.
Step 2: Simmer for 30 minutes. Strain out the fruits or veggies. What you have left is your natural dye. You can transfer it to a large bowl or keep it in the pot, as long as there is room to add the eggs.
Step 3: Gently place your hard-boiled eggs in the dye overnight. Remove from liquid and admire your work 😉
[By the way, if you are using fresh eggs from your own backyard or from a neighbor rather than store-bought eggs, here is the method that we use for hard-boiling (or, more accurately, steaming) the eggs so that they can still be peeled without so much trouble!]
Spring- and Garden-Themed Easter Basket Surprises
Another tradition that we talked about a lot last year was what to put in the kids’ Easter baskets. Thousands of years ago, Easter celebrations were a way to celebrate the end of Winter and the arrival of Spring. That seems to fit naturally with what is happening around our homestead in March and April of every year. We are typically planting new seeds , starting new garden projects, and getting outside as much as possible. So we decided that the Easter Bunny will be filling our baskets every year with small gifts related to Spring or gardening or the outdoors. Last year, that meant flower seed packets and caterpillars that we grew into butterflies and released outdoors. We also included some homemade chocolate hearts, homemade coconut treats, and finger paint. (And some wooden toys for the one-year-old. But we plan to include him in the fun this year!)
Last year, I also gave in to the mini-Martha Stewart figure perched on my left shoulder and helped my four-year-old son to make Envelope Bunnies filled with homemade dark chocolate-cherry bark for each of the fifteen kids in his preschool class plus all three teachers.
While this seemed like a great idea at first, it ended up being a bit more than I wanted to take on and I spent a few late nights cursing and trying to finish cutting out all of those bunny envelopes and silly pink ears and tying pastel-colored strings around each bag of chocolate bark. (I never seem to think about all of the parts of a craft project that the kids cannot do when I plan it out in my mind!) So, the moral of this little story is…I think it would be a fun craft to make for one or two or three people – maybe to put in your kids’ Easter baskets or to help them make as a gift for their grandparents. But please do not attempt to cut out thirty-six pink bunny ears in one night. Take it from me, it will only lead to frustration and scissor indentations on your poor little fingers. Just stick with the caterpillars, they are much easier to manage and turn into beautiful butterflies all on their own!
What family traditions are you starting this year? What do you include in your kids’ Easter baskets? Do you have any favorite Easter recipes to share? We’d love to hear from you!
Have a very Happy Easter and enjoy making memories together!