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WOSTER: Multi-colored stains on Easter's eve

Later today our family will gather, as we do on the Saturday before Easter every year, to color eggs. It's one of those things called a tradition -- you know, the things that keep the Fiddler on the Roof? I'm talking turkey dinner on Thanksgiving...

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Later today our family will gather, as we do on the Saturday before Easter every year, to color eggs.

It's one of those things called a tradition - you know, the things that keep the Fiddler on the Roof? I'm talking turkey dinner on Thanksgiving, piles of candy on Halloween, boat on the river and fireworks on the Fourth of July, oyster stew on Christmas Eve. OK, you have me there. The oyster stew waiting on the table is probably why the fiddler stayed on the roof. In my household we finally, gradually and with a great deal of guilt about abandoning the past, eliminated oyster stew from the Christmas Eve tradition.

The colored eggs, however, remain. It may be a sign of the downsized life Nancy and I are trying to lead that we seem to have reduced the number of hard-boiled eggs waiting to be colored and decorated. At one point earlier in the week, she said we had five dozen eggs. If so, that would be a significant reduction from the high-water years. I recall one year when we argued - gently, to be sure, but in some mild disagreement nonetheless - over whether to boil 10 dozen eggs. I think we might have settled on nine dozen. That's compromise, but it's still a lot of eggs to doll up with slogans and bright colors.

It's a lot of eggs to hide late on the Saturday night and find on the Easter Sunday morning hunt. Were it up to me, I'd probably have one egg boiled for each of the family members expected to visit for Easter. Most years that would be about a dozen eggs. Fewer is a good thing when you're trying to find the eggs later. Some years we don't find them all Sunday morning. We're meticulous about counting the number of eggs we hide and the number we find, but sometimes the numbers don't match. No big deal on Easter day, but the discrepancy can be worrisome later in the spring and into the summer.

I'm told there are new techniques in coloring eggs that don't included small cups of hot, vinegar-laced water and tiny dye packets. I'm all for new ideas, but isn't half the tradition of coloring eggs to have multi-colored stains on rags, garments and hands at the end of the exercise?

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Actually, the tradition is about family being together, laughing at some of the slogans written on eggs, oohing-and-aahing at the touching comments on other eggs. The eggs I color tend toward the light-hearted side, with Bears or Celtics or Brewers or UND hockey, touching stuff like that. Others in the family are more sensitive to the season and what Easter is all about. I like those. They just take more concentration and thought. And it helps if you have a steady hand and artistic temperament. I learned back in first grade that I have neither.

When the Easter weekend is drawing to a close and the family members are loading up to head home, we try to talk them into taking some of the colored eggs with them.

"You could use two or three dozen, couldn't you?'' We ask. "They're good in salads.''

"Sure, I'll take two - eggs, not dozen,'' is the standard reply. "You probably want to keep a few for your meals. I know how much you like salads, too.''

In past years, after the morning hunt through the house ended, I sometimes was tempted to fill an ice-cream bucket with the found eggs and run them across the street to scatter them on the governor's lawn in preparation for the annual hunt there. Maybe it's a sign of my maturity that I never acted on that impulse.

The thing is, all of those eggs and the dye packets and vinegar-laced hot water and egg cups and rags and aprons and what not? They're just props. The point of the tradition is having family members together for a while. Some of us gripe about it, some of us jump up to check a game score now and then, but we're there together for Easter, in body and spirit.

I always like that.

Related Topics: TERRY WOSTER
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