Project created by R.J. Hughes
“Oh! Could you make a blown-egg ornament like those eggs Catherine’s holding on the cover?”
A single, off-hand comment from my mother-in-law. She had arranged an author’s presentation for me at her P.E.O. Chapter. At each meeting they auction off a basket of various goodies for their charitable endeavors. My mother in law suggested a basket largely themed on Catherine’s Pascha, filled with chocolate and cookies, in addition to Catherine’s Pascha and my book, Surviving the Flier.
Then she mentioned the eggs.
Memories suddenly flashed through my mind. My parents, around the nightly Advent Wreath, taking care to remind us of why Christmas matters. While it is wonderful to imagine Mary and Joseph holding baby Jesus, with all the hope and joy and potential each new, cuddly arrival embodies, we must not forget why this baby, in the infinity of time, CHOSE to come — to die.
Another memory: Easter, when my dad would bring in honeysuckle branches with their budding leaves, and hang blown eggs off of its branches, some dyed, some white.
And suddenly, whether or not I finished this idea in enough time for my presentation, I wanted these eggs for my children, to remind them, on the Christmas tree, that the real reason the season of Christmas wasn’t just Jesus’s birth. His birth matters because of His Death and Resurrection.
But yes, I was able to get ornaments done for my mother in law’s group. And I wanted to share them with all of you.
Two kinds of red eggs for ornaments
The process is simple. Create red egg, then decorate and add an ornament hanger.
Getting to the red egg can be a touch time consuming, though totally worth it. Nothing beats the looks of the real, blown egg in that rich red that the onion-skin dye creates.
But if you, like me, have small inquisitive children in your home, half of your time will be spent saying, “No! Don’t touch!” “Don’t drop!” “AAAHHHH!!!” So I created the “Uncle Gus” egg just for them. Doesn’t look exactly the same, but it allowed them to experience creating these Pascha ornaments with a lot less stress from my end!
Using this tutorial, you’ll prep your eggs — either real eggs or “Uncle Gus” eggs, or both. Then you’ll decorate them!
When you’re done, you’ll have beautiful hand-made Pascha ornaments. Hang them on your Christmas tree. Use them to decorate your home at Pascha. Give them as gifts. Enjoy!
Preparing the real eggs
To prepare your real eggs for making Pascha ornaments, you’ll make your dye. Then you’ll blow, dye, and reinforce the eggs.
The photos were taken over three batches over a month’s experimentation — egg colors and shapes change from photo to photo.
List of supplies
Here’s everything you’ll need to prep your real eggs.
Blowing the eggs
- Eggs, brown or white. (I worked with free-range eggs, local eggs sold by my butcher, and commercial eggs.)
- Infant nasal aspirator(s) (A.K.A. a snot sucker — essential equipment for this project, just never use it on infants again…)
- Push pin
- Small drill bit
- Clear tape, either packing or scotch
- Red dye made from onion skins
- Stainless steel or non-reactive pot
- Blown eggs
- Nasal aspirator
- Latex or rubber gloves and apron (optional — but this is real dye, and it will stain hands and clothing)
- Modge Podge (critical)
- Eye-dropper, nasal aspirator, or straw
- Paintbrush or sponge brush
- Bowl and water
- Newspapers and paper towels, because this will get messy
- Blown, dyed eggs
Make the dye
Follow the directions on our website to make the onion-skin dye. Be sure to use a non-reactive pot.
Since I’m homeschooling this year, my children and I experimented with the dyes, using red onion skins and yellow onion skins, as well as white and brown eggs. I’ll share what we learned below.
Prepare the eggs
If you are already experienced at egg blowing, use your own methods. If you need more details than I’ve provided, check out these instructions.
As I was planning on cooking a lot of omelets and my husband wanted to make custards during this process, I washed and dried all the tools before use, so the egg would be safe to eat.
I found, in this process, that free range and farm eggs gave the best results. The cheaper, commercial eggs apparently had thinner shells and more frequently broke when I blew them. When purchasing eggs, look for thick shells, if possible.
Bring the eggs to room temperature. The insides will be thinner and will blow out more easily.
Blow the eggs
Use the pushpin to puncture the top and bottom of the egg.
Using the drill bit, gently drill a hole into the top and bottom of each egg, using the pushpin hole as a guide.
If the egg shell cracks during drilling, for the next eggs, cover the drill site with tape prior to drilling. Tape helps keep eggs from cracking so much. I used clear packing tape; others suggested scotch or painters tape.
Holding the egg over a bowl, insert a toothpick and whip around, scrambling the egg inside shell.
Blow the egg out into bowl, using either your mouth (wash exterior of egg first if you are going to do this), or a nasal aspirator.
Check the eggs for weak spots
Whether you get farm eggs or commercial eggs, inspect the eggs for weak spots and internal cracks. If you hold the blown shell in front of a bright light, the weaknesses in the shell show as brighter spots or lines, as you can see in the photo. These will become problematic later, so avoid using those eggs if possible.
Dye the eggs
Now you’ve got blown eggs, ready to dye.
But blown eggs float. So now we have to replace what we removed with more dye!
Using room temperature dye, suck dye into the interior of the egg using aspirator, or blow dye into the egg using the aspirator. Either way, fill each egg with dye, then place the egg in the dye pot.
Onion dye is heat activated (another school discovery!). Leaving the eggs to soak will result in a rust color. For white eggs, you can soak in room temp (or refrigerator) dye overnight then heat, but you have to heat the dye to get the red color.
With submerged, blown eggs, add a tablespoon of vinegar, then heat the dye, let it boil for two minutes, then remove from heat and cool to room temp. (This is the same instructions for boiling eggs in the dye.)
Check the egg color. If it’s not rich enough, either re-boil or let the eggs soak longer. Since these eggs are empty, you are free to re-boil to create a richer color.
Once dye is again at room temperature, pick up each egg, use the aspirator to blow the dye out, and set the egg on a cooling rack.
IMPORTANT: SERIOUSLY, WAIT for the dye to cool to room temp. Dye in the egg will take longer than dye in pot to cool, and you DO NOT want to handle an egg full of hot dye! (Yes, voice of experience.)
At this point, believe it or not, you can re-use this same batch of dye if you want to make more egg ornaments. You might have to boil them twice to get a deep color, but you can re-use it. I have not experimented with doing it three times.
We got different results, depending on whether we used white or brown eggs, and whether we used yellow onion skins or red onion skins.
Yellow onion skins
White eggs: Bright red eggs
Brown eggs: Deep red eggs
Red onion skins
White eggs: Dark red, almost purple
Brown eggs: Very dark, almost chocolate
If you use white eggs with dye from yellow onion skins, you might have to boil the eggs twice to get a rich enough color. If you make dye from red onion skins, whether you use white eggs or brown eggs, don’t let the eggs soak too long.
In the picture, the eggs in front are dyed with yellow onion skins, the eggs in back with red onion skins. The one weird yellow egg was colored with dye that wasn’t heated. Onion-skin dyes are heat-activated. Heating the dye is an essential step.
Reinforce the eggs
Technically speaking, reinforcing the egg is optional, but I found out about this from the article How to Make Your Blown Eggs Last 10 years (or more). It really works, makes the eggs much stronger, and if you’re making Pascha ornaments like this, you want them to last, don’t you? As “Aunt Peaches” says, over time, the porous egg shell becomes more dry and brittle, but applying this method coats it, inside and out, with a hard shell, protecting the egg, and making it more sturdy. Hers lasted ten years at the time of this article, and I could feel a definite difference between beginning and end.
To reinforce your eggs, create a 50/50 Modge Podge and water mix.
First, reinforce the eggs on the inside.
Using the aspirator, an eye dropper, or a straw, insert Modge Podge mix into egg. Cover both holes with your fingers, then shake the egg back and forth, coating the inside of the egg. Using the aspirator, blow the excess Modge Podge out of the egg.
Now you can reinforce the eggs on the outside.
Using sponge brush, or regular brush, coat outside of egg in Modge Podge mix. Let the eggs dry at least an hour. Overnight is better. Add another coat of Modge Podge mix. Let the eggs dry and cure overnight.
When the egg is dry, you have a reinforced eggshell!
How strong is this reinforced egg?
On the way north from Indiana to Michigan, my husband, not knowing I had stashed the eggs in my book box, tossed his 20-pound bag of tools on top of the box, landing right on the eggs. Of the five, three survived intact, and two, while cracked, held together! I added a couple more layers of Modge Podge once home, and the eggs were good as new!
You’re finished! You have beautiful, real red eggs ready to decorate for your tree!
Preparing the “Uncle Gus” eggs
The wooden “Uncle Gus” eggs are more durable than “the real thing,” but easier for children and long-term storage. My kids love their “Gus Eggs,” and the freedom they had to decorate without fear of breaking!
So who is Uncle Gus?
This is named in reference to the background of Catherine’s Pascha, where Catherine is cracking eggs with her mom and best friend Elizabeth. A Pascha joke I kept running across while working on the illustrations for the book was variations of this one:
“You know you’re Orthodox when… You have tournaments of red-egg-cracking on Pascha… And you usually know who’s being a wise-guy with the wooden one.”
List of supplies
- Wooden eggs. These are available at craft stores or Amazon (Just look up “Wooden Egg”); I used 1 ¾ by 2 ½ inch eggs.
- Red paint, either spray paint or Acrylic (with paint brushes). I used Americana Acrylic in Tuscan Red and Deep Burgundy. Krylon’s spray Cherry Red looked close too.
- Sandpaper (optional)
- Modge Podge (optional)
Paint the eggs
Before painting, check your eggs—they may benefit from being sanded slightly for a smoother finish.
Paint the egg, according to the instructions for your chosen paint. Let your children help if they want to.
Let the paint dry fully. Add second coat if necessary. I used a base coat of Tuscan Red with a lighter, second coat of Deep Burgundy.
I added a layer of Modge Podge for a nice shiny finish. But that’s me. Do what you like. Have fun!
Once the eggs are dry, it’s time to decorate!
Decorating the eggs
You now have your beautiful, dyed and reinforced eggs! (Or Uncle Gus eggs, both are good!)
To create an ornament, add a loop for hanging off of the Christmas tree. There are lots of ways to do this, and I’ll show several that I’ve figured out. But this is your time to experiment and create something beautiful.
Due to the liturgical and traditional colors of both Christmas and Pascha, I used mainly gold, silver/white, or crystal elements.
List of supplies
Most of these are optional. Feel free to experiment with what you have and what you like!
- Trim and ribbons
- Larger beads
- Gold marker (I used Art Deco Gold Leaf Marker, which you’ll see again in an upcoming project!)
- Gemstone strips
- Cross stickers
- Gold loops
- Gold flat jewelry findings
- Beading needle, one long enough to go through egg
- Regular needle
- Thread (I used yellow and clear)
- Modge Podge, with sponges and brushes and gluesticks (I’m sure you can use other glues, but hey! I still had this stuff on hand!)
The simplest Pascha ornaments are simply red eggs that have a loop of some sort for hanging.
For a real egg, thread thin ribbon though a long beading or crafting needle, and thread through the egg from one hole to another. Knot the ribbon at both ends, above and below the egg, so the egg rests. Add beads to the ends, and hang!
For a Gus egg, drill or screw a small eyelet to the top (or bottom) of a Gus Egg. Glue in place. That’s it! You’ve got a beautiful, elegant egg!
Trim around the middle
This method is really good for an egg that had a small crack and needs reinforcing.
Run a line of glue around the egg from pole to pole on both sides of the egg. Try to keep them equally spaced from one side to another. Overlap the ends where you’re going to add the hanger, and trim. Let dry.
Later, I used needle and thread to quickly sew trim together if glue didn’t hold as well as I liked.
Sew a ribbon loop to top, and there you go! You can call it done, or you can add more decorations.
I’m using this for my Gus eggs.
I used pre-glued strips of gemstones, then cut them to size for crosses.
I also attached foil cross stickers to the eggs. To seal the stickers to the eggs, I added a layer of full Modge Podge on top of the stickers. The only downside to this was I had to pay attention for 10-15 minutes as it dried so I could push down any corners that popped up from the egg. Smaller stickers, or thinner stickers worked better than heavier stickers, which tended to pop up more at the corners.
If you have a steady hand you can draw crosses on the eggs. Or write “He is Risen!” or write the year.
God made us creative for a reason! Have fun and decorate your eggs to remind us how Christmas and Pascha are linked, all out of God’s love for us!
17 ways to use Catherine’s Pascha: If you’re looking for more crafts, projects, and activities to extend the book, look here!
The complete list of multicultural Easter picture books: There aren’t nearly as many picture books showing people celebrating the Resurrection of Christ as you would expect. I have them all here.
Pascha baskets and Pascha basket covers: The history and tradition of Pascha baskets and Pascha basket covers.
Buy the Books!
These delightfully diverse books provide disability representation (Elizabeth, one of the main characters, is an ambulatory wheelchair user). They also give Orthodox Christian children the rare opportunity to see themselves in books, and children who are not Orthodox the chance to see cultural practices they may not be familiar with.
FINALIST IN THE 2015 USA BEST BOOK AWARDS
Catherine doesn’t like vegetables. She doesn’t like naps, and she doesn’t like it when her mom combs her hair. She loves hot dogs, chocolate cake, and her best friend, Elizabeth. Most of all, she loves Pascha! Pascha, the Orthodox Christian Easter, is celebrated in the middle of the night, with processions and candles and bells and singing. And Catherine insists that she’s not a bit sleepy.
The Saint Nicholas Day Snow
Shoes or stockings? Horse or sleigh? Does St. Nicholas visit on December 6 or on Christmas Eve? Will a little girl’s prayer be answered? When Elizabeth has to stay at Catherine’s house, she’s worried about her grandmother, and worried that St. Nicholas won’t find her. The grownups, though, are worried about snow.