Appreciating Artistic Easter Eggs

Originally published in The Quarterly magazine, Spring 2013

Artistic Eggs

Every morning, ordinary chicken eggs are cracked into frying pans. The content satisfies hunger and nourishes the body; and often, nothing more is thought of it… that is, until another egg dish is created or Easter rolls around. In the spring, the commonplace breakfast item demands attention in another way. What does this delicate white ovoid symbolize? And why do people yearn to decorate it?

Through the ages, the egg has become a universal symbol of new life, fresh beginnings and miracles. People began decorating and exchanging them as unique gifts and as a remembrance of hope. Artistic eggs help celebrate special occasions in nearly every corner of the globe. Whether they are a solid color or have intricate designs, the ornate egg is more than an attractive addition on a shelf or in a basket; the meaning associated helps us have a more egg-straordinary appreciation for its beauty.

Dating back nearly 4000 BC, decorated ceramic eggs were excavated within the Ukraine giving way to today’s well-known Ukrainian pysanka (also Croatian pisanica, Polish pisanka, and Romanian Ciocanesti egg.)

The beautiful pysanka is an elaborately dyed Easter egg using the batik process of applying beeswax and the consecutive dying of darker colors to display the previous light color under the wax that is later wiped away.

The Chinese were known to decorate eggs around 900 BC. They were used in temple worship and as decorative items while symbolizing fertility and rebirth.

Ancient Persians exchanged gifts of colored eggs during the spring equinox, the start of their new year.

One of the most extravagant egg decorations was by Russian jeweler, Peter Carl Fabergé. He and the subsequent House of Fabergé made opulent eggs of gold, precious metals and stones, and surprise treasures nestled within each other for Tsar Alexander III to give to his wife for Easter in 1885.

The more modern Japanese Washi eggs is made from art on Washi paper from the bark of 3 different Japanese trees that is glued onto the egg and believed to bring good luck, prosperity and health, while representing fertility and love.

In the Christian tradition, the Easter egg represents a new, eternal life. It is often dyed red to symbolize Jesus’ blood from his death on the cross. The shape of the egg is also compared to the stone that was rolled away from his grave. And blowing the contents out of the egg by placing a hole at each end symbolizes the empty tomb and hence Jesus’ resurrection.

In the spirit of all things new, create your own artistic Easter eggs by decorating them with vibrant spring colors.

Like people, each egg is wholly unique even before an artist adorns it with their designs or a drop of dye stains the surface. So as you gaze upon the egg, consider the rich heritage surrounding it and make it your own.

Go online and purchase different types of eggs: goose, duck, turkey or even emu, rhea or ostrich eggs, the later 3 having thicker shells to make longer-lasting treasures like boxes and mosaics. Embellish the eggs with your creativity. Scramble-up new egg dishes, using any of the eggs above. And have fun sharing your creation with friends and family.

Egg-related Easter happenings around the San Gabriel Valley:

To decorate clay eggs (or bunnies and cross boxes) visit Color Me Mine in Pasadena (626) 298-6765.

South Pasadena’s Egg-stravaganza will be held on Saturday, March 30, from 12-2 PM at Garfield Park. There will be a visit by Mr. and Mrs. Easter Bunny, egg hunts divided by age groups, mini carnival rides, arts and crafts, and more ($5 for children.) For more information call (626) 403-7380.

Arcadia’s Spring Egg-stravaganza will be on March 30, starting at 11 AM at Arcadia County Park. There will be an egg hunt and an appearance by the Easter Bunny. On Friday night, March 29 is The Great Egg Race, a flashlight egg hunt for teens. For more information call (626) 574-5113.

In San Gabriel, on March 30, beginning at 7 AM, there will be a breakfast at Smith Park (a small charge for children and adults). Pancake races begin at 9 AM (bring your own spatula!) And an egg hunt will begin at 10 AM. For more information call (626) 308-2875.

Kidspace in Pasadena hosts an egg hunt after Easter on Sunday, April 7. For the price of admission call (626) 449-9144.

Enjoy eggs at various sites for Easter brunch: Firefly Bistro in South Pasadena, The Huntington Library in San Marino, and in Pasadena – La Grande Orange Café, The Raymond, Parkway Grill, Mi Piace, and Maison Akira.

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Old Book for New Year: Discover Poetry

poetryTo ring in the new year I wanted to celebrate an older book with even older content: “A Poem for Every Day! An Anthology of 180 Poems…” By Susan Moger. There are many similar types of books, but this particular one is for kids in grades 3-5, so it’s perfect for me, a self-proclaimed poetry simpleton. I know, it’s a sad and embarrassing confession for a writer. But there you have it, raw honesty to encourage you to pick up poetry at any age.

Actually, I found this book years ago at a fair, hoping to explore it with my own kids (and the fact that this old lady gets to learn right alongside them, even better!) The book was meant for teachers; but as a parent, “teacher” is simply another hat we wear, so don’t be intimidated by the author’s guide for the intended audience. Rather, be empowered by it.

Last April during National Poetry Month, my boys and I opened this book to enjoy a new burst of words each day. It was not easy — maybe because I chose the time right after school to have “more school.” (Well, it seemed like a good hour at the time.)

“If at first you don’t succeed…” just stop. Take a break. Then try again and again. So for round 2, we will attempt impassioned poetry readings at bedtime. The constant procrastination attempts before sleep should work well for this. And doing a poem a day or every other day will take us well into April, as we join countrymen in celebrating crafty phrases.

As for the book itself, I like how it is divided: poems for patriots; poems about the living world; haiku; poems about people, places and things; poems about poetry and words; poems of beauty and magic; poems for fun. It’s organized so you can skip around, depending how you feel. Some are quite popular, like  “Casey at the Bat” and “The Star-Spangled Banner,” while others are more obscure, at least to me. But all are a form of expression that can sometimes say profound things in simple ways. It’s a gift to behold.

So in this season, enjoy some good poetry, at any level, from any anthology. And hopefully, maybe quite by surprise, your kids (and you) will discover the magical and transforming power of words — before our eyes retire for the night, surrendering ourselves to rest  and allowing these lovely words to slip into our dreams.

Publisher: Scholastic 2006

12 Days of Christmas Ornaments: A Tradition of Memories — Day 12

IMG_3830On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me – 12 Hopes and Dreams!

11 friends and family, 10 gifts from giving, 9 wooden beauties, 8 family trips, 7 Bruins beating Trojans (38-28!), 6 Asian Orbs, 5 manger scenes! 4 major awards, 3 dancing pigs, 2 handmade bells, and a portrait to put on the tree.

It’s the day before Christmas and for me, this can be either a magical time or a mad rush to finalize the securing of gifts. Sometimes it’s both. But my longing is for the former.

Yes, this can be even a “magical” or supernatural time for adults as well as kids. When our perspective of the special day ahead is aligned to the true meaning, the wonder is there.

I’m reminded of a song I always hear on the radio during the seasons; one of the verses includes this line, “This is my grown up Christmas list…”

As a young child, you may deeply hope for candy. But as you grow, the sophistication of dreams grows along with you. Sometimes that wish grows a little faster than one’s maturity can take (this year my 5-year-old asked Santa for an “ifone” — I don’t think so!)

But if I do my job as a thoughtful parent, I can plant seeds of hope and truth, continuing to nourish it while asking God to grow it up in a healthy manner. I try to remind my kids and myself (over and over) what is really important in this world (things that last: who we become and how we get there, people and how we treat them, God….)

To drive this point home a bit deeper for our family, last year I planted another little seed that has the potential to sprout goodness. We all wrote our hopes and wishes on a gift tag and hung them on the tree as ornaments. Of course, I gave some suggestions to think beyond the tangible. And even my 4-year-old at the time got it or at least, is slowly getting it (see pictured ornament). He had me write about giving food to hungry people. And to make his wish come true, we did just that through the year.

Of course, this takes some effort, but not much. And it’s worth it! Believe me, it’s not just for the kids; I, too, am reminded of the desires God wants us to have, the prayerful hopes and wishes that bring life. In fact, this season is all about life… of a baby who came into this world to give us the ultimate life.

So let us remember through our ornaments, among so many other things, all that makes this life worth living.

Merry Christmas to you all in my cyber world. And Happy Birthday, Jesus!

12 Days of Christmas Ornaments: A Tradition of Memories — Day 11

IMG_3752On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me – 11 friendly families,

10 gifts from giving, 9 wooden beauties, 8 family trips, 7 Bruins beating Trojans (38-28!), 6 Asian Orbs, 5 manger scenes! 4 major awards, 3 dancing pigs, 2 handmade bells, and a portrait to put on the tree.

Whether friendly families, friends of the family, or simply family… today is about giving to the ones we love. It goes without saying that the people in our lives are of utmost importance. And because I believe that the soul is eternal, individuals should be treated with respect, allowing relationships to take precedence over circumstances or things.

Giving is one way of showing honor and love and when it’s personal (even personalized), it’s even more specifically for that individual.

On the first day I mentioned hanging photos on your own tree of those who are close to you. But taking that idea a step further, I actually like giving ornaments as gifts. Since there are as many kinds of ornaments as there are people, you’re bound to find one that fits someone pretty well.

So whether giving or receiving a hanging figure, bringing it out each year, reminds me of the giver: how well they knew me or how thoughtful they were to commemorate a shared moment.

Personalized ornaments can also make the exchange that much more fun. And though the specialized pieces can get pricy from those carts in the middle of malls, an after-Christmas discounted one where you write the year and the name yourself with a Sharpie can be just as nice (but if it’s for the following year, don’t forget where you stored it.)

A small token of friendship and appreciation for the ones God placed in our lives by chance or by choice (no matter the kind and whether or not there’s writing on it), these little treasures are an excellent addition to any tree.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me – visit here tomorrow to see.

12 Days of Christmas Ornaments: A Tradition of Memories — Day 10

IMG_3801On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me – 10 gifts from giving,

9 wooden beauties, 8 family trips, 7 Bruins beating Trojans (38-28!), 6 Asian Orbs, 5 manger scenes! 4 major awards, 3 dancing pigs, 2 handmade bells, and a portrait to put on the tree.

A life is enhanced when we give. Sometimes we give money to our favorite charities. And other times, we give of ourselves as volunteers, sharing our time and our talents. However we give, the act itself always refreshes the soul in surprising ways.

On this 10th day… My hope is to take the focus off me and think about the missionaries we support, the places we volunteer, and the people we give to.IMG_3845

More than a tax write-off, giving is a partnership. Whenever I give, I try to remember that I am supporting the receiver. I’m saying, “I believe in you and you’re worth my time and money.” I try to pray for them and pray that the money is used wisely.

The two ornaments shown here were gifts from people we support overseas. They are hand-painted in the country of origin (the Philippines). But even more than reminding me of this part of the world, when I look at these, I also think about the other missionaries, organizations, and people we cheer for.

Truly, I have it easy here. So when I take my eyes off me and onto others, I’m reminded of and humbled by God’s greatness and love.

And the greatest gift of all, we celebrate in 2 days… Emmanuel, God with us, was born.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me – visit here tomorrow to see.

12 Days of Christmas Ornaments: A Tradition of Memories — Day 9

IMG_3797On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me –

9 wooden beauties

8 family trips, 7 Bruins beating Trojans (38-28!), 6 Asian Orbs, 5 manger scenes! 4 major awards, 3 dancing pigs, 2 handmade bells, and a portrait to put on the tree.

What is really beautiful? Is it in the Sistine Chapel or an ethereal photo of a hummingbird in flight? Is it found in a friendship of foes or in an exquisite chocolate soufflé? Maybe it’s in a perfectly sung note, a yellow dot on blue canvas, or a gilded cross.

Of course, beauty can be all those things. But what makes one thing more beautiful than another is completely dependent on the value ascribed by each individual.IMG_3751

This is how commonplace things or people become extraordinary. Case in point, my dad found in nature, an ordinary and yet remarkable stone. (He’s an avid viewing stone collector.) This particular stone is worth a small house! Someone actually offered him this amount, but he refused to give it up.

And if a beholder thinks someone is pretty awesome, the one who’s being admired actually starts believing it. Their whole demeanor changes. They become confident, maybe gracious, and even joyful.

This season, let us see beauty. Open your eyes and hearts to that which is beautiful: a life, a story, an ornament.

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me – visit here tomorrow to see.

12 Days of Christmas Ornaments: A Tradition of Memories — Day 8

IMG_3854On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me –

8 family trips

7 Bruins beating Trojans (38-28!), 6 Asian Orbs, 5 manger scenes! 4 major awards, 3 dancing pigs, 2 handmade bells, and a portrait to put on the tree.

Seven years ago, our family visited the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. When I was 10, all I wanted to be was an astronaut, so the visit was truly thrilling for me, especially. So to remember our trip, I was so pleased to have found an ornament to help us relive our experience. Every time I bring out our golden space shuttle ornament, memories about a family trip and a youthful dream reemerge.

Though our son remembers one thing about that vacation (the Mickey pool on the Disney Cruise), I recall several more. At the space center I remember seeing the space suits, the mission control room, the size of the rocket boosters, and the shuttle mover over gravel. It was all awesome!IMG_4025

Yesterday I was a chaperone on my 5th grader’s field trip to the California ScienCenter, the new home of the retired space shuttle Endeavour. Again, to see the shuttle up close was amazing and the 3D IMAX movie, breathtaking and humbling. Our trip yesterday, our trip to Florida, and a little girl’s dream are all wrapped up in my tiny fragile ornament. It represents to me: God giving man the  ability to reach great heights, figuratively and literally!

On the flip side there’s God’s natural wonders, supernatural “great heights,” if you will. This last summer we visited Yellowstone, the first National Park in our country. There, we saw another kind of amazing. So what did I do? Well, I bought a bison ornament, naturally, since we saw about 100 of them.

Again, it’s my way of assuring that we remember the great moments in our lives, each time we bring it out in December.

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me – visit here tomorrow to see.

12 Days of Christmas Ornaments: A Tradition of Memories — Day 7

IMG_3749On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me –

7 Bruins beating Trojans (38-28!),

6 Asian orbs, 5 manger scenes! 4 major awards, 3 dancing pigs, 2 handmade bells, and a portrait to put on the tree.

A shameless plug for UCLA? Okay, maybe a little. But even more, today is about celebrating places from our past (schools, cities, work places…) that have molded and influenced us.

The mention of a place can trigger so many memories: of people I love, wisdom I’ve learned, things I’ve done. So when I meet a fellow Bruin (UCLA), a Matador (CSUN), or a Terrier (BU), or someone who has lived in Boston, Orange County, or East Asia, I have an instant connection with them.IMG_3759

College, going overseas for a missions trip, graduate school, and maneuvering through new jobs were times I came into my own.

It’s where I discovered that journalism and writing in general were my passion. It’s where I fell in love with children’s books, like Robert McCloskey’s Make Way for Ducklings in Boston’s Public Garden. It’s where I met God and His people in profound ways (thank you Cru). And it was during this time that I met my wonderful husband. And the rest, shall we say, is history.

What places bring back good memories for you? More than a vacation (I will cover this later), these are places where you spent significant time. Chances are, not all the memories were good ones, but hopefully something positive came out of even the difficulties. And with hindsight, maybe you can see its significance in your life now.

Personal history is not to be dismissed. When brought up from time to time and seen through a fresh lens, it can actually help direct our future for the better.

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me – visit here tomorrow to see.

12 Days of Christmas Ornaments: A Tradition of Memories — Day 6

IMG_3769On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me –

6 Asian orbs,

5 manger scenes! 4 major awards, 3 dancing pigs, 2 handmade bells, and a portrait to put on the tree.

I have no idea what my pictured round object is called. If you do, please enlighten me! (One friend thought “geodesic.” Maybe? Thank you Kay.) But on this 6th day, the focus is on culture.

Not only do I enjoy the bright colors on this ornament, but I love that there are Chinese characters on it, too. It is clearly Asian looking, complete with tassels, gold lamé, and shiny fabric. And it reminds me of where I come from… not China, but Asia.

Koreans, Taiwanese, Japanese, and many other Asian nations include Chinese characters in their language. So for us, this is a universal way to communicate. Even if we don’t understand each other when we speak, we understand each other through our writing (because the spoken character varies, but the written one means the same thing across cultures.)

Honestly, though I look completely Korean, I feel wholly blended as a “Korean-American.” But before people start calling me a banana, know this… I grew up in America, so what I know of Korean culture is through my American upbringing in a Korean home.

Like many Americans, we are a blend of cultures. And to me, this is beautiful and worthy of celebration. In elementary school I used to hide that I was Korean, like that was even possible. I tried to not speak Korean, so I could become more American, as if that made any sense? Thankfully, my parents ignored my silly comments and continued to speak Korean in the home, even if I responded in English. And the main reason I know how to speak any Korean today is because of them. Thank you mom and dad!

But back to ornaments… finding one that celebrates your DNA is simply another way to remember who you are, where you came from, and what you are passing on to future generations.

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me – visit here tomorrow to see.

12 Days of Christmas Ornaments: A Tradition of Memories – Day 5

IMG_3768On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me –

5 manger scenes!

4 major awards, 3 dancing pigs, 2 handmade bells, and a portrait to put on the tree.

The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:10-11

If I include dazzling angels, ornate stars, peaceful sheep, wise men, and marshmallows (yes, marshmallows – see photo), I definitely have more than 5 pieces of the manger scene. In fact, it’s the single most dominating theme on our tree, and for good reason.

Without Jesus’ birthday, there is no Christmas.

So in this advent season, the days before Christmas where we prepare our hearts for the incredibly humble King of king’s entrance into the world, His coming, may we pause to remember why we have Christmas at all.

It’s really quite simple. God came to us as a baby, to one day die with all our sins and rise again. And because He was both a king and a poor frail creature, he can relate to us all. Because we believe this miracle, we can spend a heavenly eternity with Him.

If an ornament can remind you of any part of this truth, it deserves the most prime spot on the tree.

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me – visit here tomorrow to see.IMG_3770

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