Tag Archives: Swiss tradition

Hand-painted eggs recall long-gone grandmother

Coloring eggs at Easter probably ranks up there in popularity with icing sugar cookies around Christmas time. When you color eggs with young children, it can get a little messy. I wonder how many dozen eggs my mom must have prepared when all five of her kids were determined to color an equal number of eggs.

Last year, I pilfered onion skins from the grocery store so I could dye my eggs in them. The woman checking us out looked at me kind of strangely when I she picked up a plastic bag with one onion surrounded by loose skins. I just smiled. She shrugged. Those turned out beautifully, especially when I did brown eggs — they looked like chocolate.

Here it is Saturday, the day before Easter, and we haven’t given much thought to Easter prep. No little girls around to sew new dresses for, no adult children home to color eggs with, no relatives to cook for. So feeling a little sad, I began rooting around for something I knew would brighten up the house.

The painted eggs. These are not just any old painted eggs. These eggs were painted by my husband’s grandmother, Bertha Hahn.


I should explain that I never knew her well; in fact my only personal conversation with her occurred when I was about eight years old and somehow my older brothers had bribed me to do their newspaper “collecting”. All I remember is that my mom sat in the car while I went to the door to collect Mrs. Hahn’s weekly payment. She came to the door with her dress unbuttoned, revealing a laced-up garment. I grabbed her money and ran to the car, completely perplexed. My mom explained the intricacies of the old-fashioned corset.

So, later in life, when I married my husband, I heard stories about his grandmother — most of which explained the corset. But I also learned that she was an artist. On our first Easter together, he pulled out the most beautifully painted tiny eggs I’d ever seen. These were nothing like the dyed eggs of my childhood.

Apparently, each year, she painted eggs for her grandchildren. She raised Bantams, so some of the eggs are very tiny. How she managed to do this without breaking them is beyond me. It had to have taken much patience. (I know this isn’t easy because one year my husband and daughters attempted this.)


According to my husband, she first inserted a needle in the egg, broke the yolk and then blew out the egg. She then painted each in a solid color. When they were dry, she used a tiny brush to paint flowers, bunnies, and crosses. Each egg includes the child’s name, the year, and often a Bible verse.

Maybe painting eggs like this was a local Swiss tradition. Whatever….while we may not be coloring eggs this year, we’ve got a bowlful of beautiful eggs that easily rival any Ukrainian pysanky.