I can’t believe it’s spring already! Living in California, I feel like I got a little nipped by winter this year. Despite a few bitter cold spurts and scattered rain pour, it has more or less been a terribly warm winter in California with record breaking high temperatures for this time of the year. Nevertheless, today is the first day of spring and the International Day of Happiness. Something about bright sunshine on your skin, the scent of fragrant blooming flowers, and of tickling green grass under your feet makes the feeling of joy and vitality inevitable. This is the utter essence of spring, which is marked by Spring Equinox. It is when the sun shines directly on the equator and the length of day and night is equal all over the world. This year, the Spring Equinox has the unusual distinction of coinciding with both a supermoon, a full and new moon that occurs during the moon’s closest approach to Earth on its elliptical orbit, and a total solar eclipse. There hasn’t been a solar eclipse on either the March or September equinox in 353 years! As it has all fallen on a Friday as well, it is being referred to as Freaky Friday. It is certainly a special day and the evening will be just as spectacular. Be sure to look up at the moon tonight, because it will be bigger and brighter than usual. The Spring Equinox has long been celebrated as a time of rebirth and many cultures celebrate spring festivals and holidays at this time of the year, like Easter and Passover. Other celebrations such as Nowruz and Ostara are actually celebrated the actual first day of spring.
With spring the first thought that entered my mind was to start on Easter Eggs and spend a day decorating. However, it occurred to me that Easter is still two weeks away and since it is surprisingly warm right now, perhaps I should put off decorating eggs for another week. I did, however, want to mark the coming of spring and decided to go another route with the eggs, since any crafting I do here always has to do with food in some way or another. I used egg shells to decorate with and incorporated some rituals from earthy practices of Nowruz and Ostara.
I wanted to keep my decorations as natural and preserving to nature as possible so I used egg shells and carefully saved the yokes for cooking later. I dyed the egg shells in subtle spring colors using food coloring. As I waited for them to dry I took the egg carton and painted the outside silver and the inside green to give it a little sprucing because I wanted it to hold my egg shells. Once the egg shells were dry, I used them to plant seeds, create miniature pots of wild flowers and even hold a natural beeswax candles. You can put tea lights in them as well.
How to Make Egg Shell Pots and Candle Holders
4 eggs (or however many egg shell holders you want to make)
Food Coloring in 4 different colors
4 Plastic Cups or Mason Jars Filled Half Way with Water
4 Teaspoons of Vinegar
First empty the egg shells. You can either blow them and use these instructions or use a needle to punch a whole and carefully peel off a little bit of the top of the egg shell to take out the yoke. It helps to scramble the yoke with your needle to pour it all out. Clean the inside and outside of the shells by gently washing with warm water and soap.
Second dye the shells. Fill cups with half cup of water and pour 1 teaspoon of vinegar in each cup. Drop a few drops of food coloring in each cup to get the desired colors that you want. Generally 3 to four drops is enough unless you are trying to create more intensity with the colors. Submerge the egg shells in each cup. Let them sit in the water for at least 5 minutes to get the color that you want. You can let them sit a little longer if you need to. Take the shells out and set them down to dry. Once the shells are dry use them for which ever purpose you desire.
For egg shell planters, carefully scoop one teaspoon of planting soil into the shell. Insert your desired planting flowers and scoop one more teaspoon of planting soil. Water and set in the sun.
For candles, take the bottom of a candle and warm it with a lighter so the wax is a little soft. Insert it in the egg shell and let it stand. Hold it up for a minute so that the wax can dry on the egg shell and your candle will stand. You can also melt down old candles and pour the wax in the shell with a wick to create your own candles with the egg shells.
When my lovely eggshells were planted with seeds and set with candles, I kept going. I particularly like the practices of Nowruz. Nowruz is the Persian New Year and you may often see it spelled Nowrouz, Nooruz, Navruz, Nauroz, or Nevruz. Nowruz has been celebrated by people from diverse ethnic communities and religious backgrounds for 3,000 years. Today the festival of Nowruz is celebrated in Iran, Iraq, India, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Pakistan. It is a secular holiday for most celebrants, but remains a holy day for Zoroastrian. Nowruz is a pre-Islamic celebration that survived in the Islamic society after 650 AD. The reason I was drawn to Nowruz is that its rituals are very beautiful and symbolic. One particular practice is the Haft Seen, which is a traditional table setting of Nowruz. The original practice of setting up the Haft Seen table includes seven items all starting with the letter S or sīn in the Persian alphabet.
The traditional Haft Seen items are:
- Sabzeh (wheat, barley, mung bean or lentil sprouts growing in a dish) – symbolizing rebirth
- Samanu (sweet pudding made from wheat germ) – symbolizing affluence
- Senjed (dried oleaster Wild Olive fruit) – symbolizing love
- Seer (garlic) – symbolizing medicine or to ward off evil
- Seeb (apple) – symbolizing beauty and health
- Somāq (sumac fruit or the spice) symbolizing the color of sunrise or the spice of life
- Serkeh (vinegar) – symbolizing old-age and patience
The practices of setting up the Haft Seen changed over time, particularly after Arab and Islamic influence. You will often see additional items, such as:
Sekkeh (coins) – representing wealth
Sonbol (hyacinth) – for a spring flower
Mahi (gold fish) – symbolizes life, a bowl of water with goldfish is symbolic of life within life, and the sign of Pisces which the sun is leaving. As an essential object of the Nowruz table, this goldfish is also “very ancient and meaningful” and with Zoroastrian connection.
Tokhmeh Morgh (egg) – symbolizes fertility, decorated eggs are sometimes one for each member of the family
Sham (candle) – symbolizes enlightenment
Shirini (sweets) – symbolizes spreading the sweetness
Persians will also place on the table a book of poetry or prayer, such as Avesta, Qur’an, or Kitáb-i-Aqdas. For nondenominational practices a book of poetry is preferred and it is almost always Shahnameh or the Divan of Hafiz. Lastly a mirror is placed symbolizing cleanliness and honesty. Through Arab influence some use Rosewater for purity and cleanness as well.
My Haft Seen
I find all of it lovely and set up my own Haft Seen with a bit of my own beliefs. My spread was set up quite differently from what is typically done. Usually each item is separately placed. However, I felt that all the items were treasures of spring, so I placed much of it in a treasure chest. I placed coins, a small mirror, dried fruits and nuts, garlic and one decorated egg (for one child) all in the chest. Then in a lovely flute I poured vinegar, placed one candle for enlightenment next to that and a beautiful edition of The Qur’an. I included a pretty honey pot for sweets and the spreading of sweetness and next to it a vase of vibrant yellow spring flowers. I thought it to be quite inspirational.