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Easter Trees

A colorful basket filled with dyed, hard-boiled eggs nestled in a bed of glistening grass says Easter like nothing else.

But when you combine Easter eggs, baskets, bunnies and spring flowers with the spindly branches of a budding forsythia bush or a cherry tree, you have all the makings of a fun way to celebrate the holiday with the creation of an Easter tree.

Decorating evergreen or leafless trees with eggs at Easter have long been the tradition in Germany and the Ukraine. When German settlers immigrated to the states, many brought with them their Easter tradition of decorating trees with eggs, which symbolize rebirth, renewal, and resurrection.

The tradition slowly caught in America with its origin dating back to just after the Civil War. It has gained momentum with the rising popularity of Katherine Milhous' children's book, "The Egg Tree."

Milhous tells the story of a little girl who discovers her grandmothers old hand-painted Easter eggs in the attic and inspires the renewal of the Easter egg tree tradition in her family.

It is a tradition that has become, for many, part of the annual spring holiday decorating frenzy.

"I think it's a sign of springtime," said Brenda Sink, activities director at The Summit Place of North Myrtle Beach in Little River, S.C.

An Easter egg tree was a fixture in Wayne Graffius' home when he was growing up in Pennsylvania. The family tree featured handpainted eggs, their insides blown out through tiny holes on either end, with ribbon attached for hanging. The whole family was in on the decorating.

"We always had one, and we used actual branches of a forsythia or cherry tree, and we'd force them to open," Graffius said.

Graffius, a design consultant, has continued his family tradition this year by creating an Easter egg tree using branches he cut from behind his Myrtle Beach, S.C., home. His mother, Elizabeth, helped with the decorations, cutting ribbon for the plastic eggs and attaching flowers to miniature straw hats.

"We always made it the week before, and we'd put our Easter baskets under the tree for the Easter bunny to fill," Graffius said.

Egg trees are widely available for purchase on the Internet or in retail stores, where you can find miniature, leafless wire trees and accompanying ornaments. But Graffius said he prefers to use live branches to create a dramatic centerpiece that can be displayed on a buffet or dining room table.

"You want it to be the centerpiece of the room," he said.

Resources for Easter tree crafts
http://crafts.kaboose.com/easter-tree.html
http://www.babyzone.com/Crafts/Craft.asp?CraftID=43
http://www.homemakingcottage.com/holidays/ea/eatree.htm
http://familycrafts.about.com/cs/eastercrafts/l/bleatree.htm

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