This year, I am pleased to say that it was the greenest Christmas I’ve ever done. All the presents were simple and inexpensive or even free, and bought from small shops (as opposed to buying from a large online store which shall remain unnamed!), and wrapped in old paper from previous Christmases or in newspaper (the Guardian does central spreads which are worth using as wrapping paper!). My cards were all homemade using leftover card, ornaments and paints. The food was all home cooked as ever. I made my own cranberry sauce this year- it was extraordinarily simple and very tasty. Finally, my fake Christmas tree and its ornaments – all of which have been going well for the last 16 years!
Every country has age old traditions that manifest themselves creatively in days of celebration. But these traditions have become commercialised. So in an age of mass produced goods and of artificial perfection where the sign of hands and any ‘errors’ have been carefully removed, it is good to make things by hand and make them not too perfect. Easter offers one of those occasions where the hideous and unhealthy tradition of factory made ever larger chocolate eggs have captured children and parents’ hearts and stomachs. On the other hand, many traditional Easter foods have been home made, free from additives and perhaps more healthy, if not entirely so.
Having an Armenian link in my family, I decided this year to make traditional Armenian Easter eggs alongside a traditional meal. Making these Easter eggs involves using onion skins, turmeric and other natural dyes to colour eggs. Here are some of my efforts. I collected red onion skins- shopkeepers were happy to get rid of them. I also put in some chilli flakes that I was not using (these also make the water red). I boiled these for about twenty minutes and left it to cool overnight. In the morning, I pasted some leaves I found in the garden on the raw eggs using water. I used organic hens and duck eggs. Then I put the eggs inside cut up old stockings and boiled them further for about 20 minutes. After removing them from the stocking, I left them to cool. When they were cold to touch, I polished them with some olive oil to make them shine. Even though the duck eggs were less successful, the over all effect of mottled colour with silhouettes of leaves, was charming on both types of eggs. We ate those eggs with some goats cheese, yoghurt, traditional bread, olives and tomato and onion salad. My children had been given some of the shop bought chocolate eggs but after eating lunch, they did not feel like eating those! What did I do with the waste? The skins were put in the compost and the leftover liquid was used to dye an old silk blouse. No waste- a perfect end to Easter holidays!