After the meal was over the lady distributed a few roosters and many hens among the housemothers. She told them that one hen could lay as many as one hundred to a hundred and fifty eggs per year. "Over one hundred eggs!" the women cried in astonishment. "How useful for a household." Amid great joy the housemothers took their chickens back to the valley. All the people blessed the lady and thanked God for these wonderful, beneficial gifts.
The chickens were the talk of the village for a long time. People were always noticing something new about them, things that were pleasing and at the same time useful. The housefathers were particularly fond of the rooster's crowing early each morning. "He announces the approach of daylight," they said, "and wakes us up to go to our daily chores. There's new life in the valley since the roosters all crow at the same time and everyone can get to work at the same time."
The housemothers liked that the hens clucked when they layed eggs. There was joy in the household whenever they heard the sound. "You know immediately when there's a useful gift for the taking."
The villagers often said, "God truly created these birds to become household animals. They stick around the house and never stray far. They come when you call them, go home at night by themselves and wait at the door or window until you let them in. Not only are they beneficial to the household, they're also cheap to feed. They'll eat bran mixed with vegetable scraps or anything else not used in the house. From morning til night they stay out of the house and peck around for their own food. Even the thousands of pieces of grain, which are lost at harvest time and scattered by the threshers, aren't wasted. The hens peck away diligently and then give us eggs. Even the poorest widow, unable to keep other household animals, can afford to buy and feed a hen and then reap a daily egg in payment."
The lady's two children, who had never thought about overabundance, came to see that an egg is a gift from God. How happy they were when they ate an egg in milk every other morning. Grain meals, which previously had not tasted good because of the lack of eggs, were now delicious. They fervently thanked God for them!
The Feast of Colored Eggs, a Children's Festival
Summer and Fall came and went and Winter had arrived. It was a harsh one. For months the little huts in the valley were buried in snow. Only the smoking chimneys and parts of the roofs peaked through this white blanket. The narrow pass between the rocks had completely disappeared. The mill stood still and the waterfall was frozen and motionless. The villagers seldom saw each other. Thus greater was their joy when the snow finally melted and Spring arrived.
The village children returned and brought the two foreign children, Edmund and Blanda, the first blue violets and yellow cowslips they found in the valley. As soon as there were more of these charming spring blossoms they wove a beautiful blue and yellow wreath. "I too must do something nice for these good children," the noble lady said. "At Easter I will host a small, country children's feast. I'll do whatever I can to make this feast day a time of joy for these children. But what shall I give them? At Christmas I could give them apples and nuts, which I had brought in for them. But at this time of the year all there is in the house is a few eggs. Nature provides nothing for them to enjoy. All the trees and bushes are without fruit and berries. Eggs are the first gift of reawakening nature."
"If only the eggs weren't all colorless," Martha said. "White is nice but the colors of fruits and berries, like beautiful little red apples, are so much prettier."
"That gives me an idea," the good lady said. "It wouldn't be difficult. I will hard boil the eggs and while they're cooking I'll dye them. The many colors will certainly please the children."
The wise woman knew about many roots and mosses which could be used to produce beautiful colors. She dyed the eggs in various tints. Some were sky blue, others yellow like lemons, and some were a beautiful pink color like the inner petals of a rose. She bundled some in light green leaves, which left an imprint on the shells and gave them unique and colorful surfaces. On some she wrote little rhymes.
The lady sent Martha to invite all the children, who were Edmund and Blanda's age, to a children's festival on Easter Sunday. Easter was a beautiful Spring day. The sun was warm and the sky was delightfully clear and blue. Happy and dressed in their best attire the children came from the valley and assembled before the lady's door. She came out with Edmund and Blanda, greeted the children and took them to the back garden. The lady sat on a bench beneath a tree and called the children to her. All pressed in close and looked to her with smiling and expectant little faces.
"Now, beloved children," she said. "Do you know why today is such a great and joyous feast day for us?" — "Oh, yes," the children replied, "Because Jesus Christ is risen from the dead." — "But now can you tell me what that means? You know he died for us out of love and he was buried. What happened after that?" Martha's little sister looked about the garden and at the rock wall and then said, "His grave was also in a garden built into a rock wall. The grave was closed off by a huge boulder used like a door. Jesus had said He would rise up three days after His death. The people didn't believe He would keep His word. But what happened? A holy angel appeared before the grave the same way he did before the manger. On the morning of the third day the angel came down from heaven and rolled the boulder away from the grave. His gown was white as snow and light bright as lightning surrounded him. Other gleaming angels appeared and Jesus emerged from his tomb, resurrected, more beautiful and divine than any angel standing before the grave. Just as the humble shepherds had once come to the manger,
"now pious women came to His grave. And just as an angel had announced the great news of Christ's birth to the shepherds, the angels now announced to the grieving women that He was resurrected."
"Very good," the lady said. "You have paid attention to what I told my daughter Blanda and my son Edmund. Now I will tell you more about why we should rejoice with our whole hearts because Jesus Christ rose from the dead."
"Jesus Christ has shown us through His resurrection that His Father in heaven sent him into the world to give us humans eternal life. He gave us the most beautiful yet simple proof of life after death! He exited the grave alive and showed us He defeated death. And what could be more comforting and joyous for us mortal humans than the hope of renewed and eternal life after death as Jesus promised! Just as He had told His disciples He would rise from the dead, here He tells us that we too will be resurrected. He spoke the truth: 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me shall live after death. Indeed, I tell you, the day will come when all those resting in their graves will hear the voice of the Son of God, rise and live again.'
"Everything which you see in springtime, my beloved children, here in the garden and out there in the valley and the mountains attests to what Jesus said about resurrection and renewed life. Just look around you. The trees were bare and lifeless. Now they live anew with fresh green leaves. Thousands of colorful butterflies and insects remained hidden in wormlike state and now they creep among the leaves, cocoon themselves and reemerge as different creatures and rejoice in their new existence. Flowers pop up from the dark earth in the garden. They too are resurrected! Jesus Christ Himself has taught us to recognize this wonder of nature in His parable of the grain of wheat, which is planted in the earth, germinates and grows into beautiful, ripe wheat. Each stalk, each blossom, each blade of grass tells us the same tale: I am risen and you humans who lie in your graves will be resurrected too."
The lady led the children to the rock wall where Kuno had placed an oblong table on the gravel. A colorful cloth adorned the table, which was surrounded by greenery. The children sat around it. Edmund and Blanda sat among them. All were happy and full of anticipation for what would come next. It truly was a beautiful sight, this circle of curly blond and brunette heads with glowing faces. The lady said to herself, "No wreath of flowers could be prettier even if it were made of roses and lilies."
A huge earthen pot full of milk and scrambled eggs was brought out. Each child had a new clay bowl in front of him. Each received an equal share, which tasted wonderful. Then the lady took the children through the side gate of the garden to the small pine forest beyond. Beautiful shrubs sprung up amid the young trees. The lady told the children each should build a nest out of the moss growing amply between the rocks and trees.
They gladly obeyed. Abler children helped those who couldn't quite manage the assignment and then tended to their own nests.
Then the lady and the children returned to the garden. And behold! On the table there was a magnificent ring of egg bread. Each child had a slice. As the children ate, Martha took a huge basket full of colored eggs and secretly returned to the forest. She placed the eggs in the nests the children had made. The blue, red, yellow, and multicolored eggs looked pretty in the soft little green moss nests.
After the children had eaten the lady said, "Now let's go back and look at our nests." In each nest there were five eggs of the same color. A verse had been placed on one of the eggs in each nest. What a cry of delight came from the children. The joy and jubilation were beyond description. "Red eggs, red eggs," one child exclaimed. "My nest is full of red eggs." —"And mine are all blue," said another child. "They're as blue as the sky." — "Mine are all yellow," cried a third. "Even more beautiful than that bright yellow butterfly flying over there." — One small boy shouted, "Mine are all kinds of colors. It must have been a miraculous hen who laid these eggs. I'd love to see her."
"Oh," said Martha's little sister. "Hens don't lay eggs like that. I'm pretty sure a rabbit laid them. It sprang from the juniper bush as I was making my nest then ran away." All the children laughed and said in jest, "Rabbits lay colorful eggs." Now this joke spread to many regions and has even survived to our time.
The lady now prepared the children for another amusement. Some children who only had blue eggs wanted red and yellow ones too. It was the same for children with red, yellow or multicolored eggs. The lady told them they could trade eggs with each other but they were not to trade away the eggs with verses written on them. That created a new source of joy as the children gathered eggs of all colors. "See," the lady said. "This is how people are supposed to help each other. It's the same with other things. God distributes his gifts so that people can share them with others and everyone wins."
Young Edmund read his verse. A son of a coal burner was astonished. At that time there were very few schools and even many adults did not know how to read and write something so beautiful and useful. The boy immediately wanted to know what was written on his egg. "Oh, there's a different and beautiful verse written on yours!" the lady said. "For food and drink, the giver we thank." Then she asked the children if they always did what the verse had told them to do. It occurred to the children for the first time to thank God for the delicious meal and the beautiful eggs. They immediately did so under the lady's direction. Each child wanted to know what his or her verse said. They all crowded around the lady. Each little hand was extended and holding an egg.
All exclaimed simultaneously, "What's on mine? What about mine? What does it say? Read mine first." To maintain peace the lady had the children form a circle, which she went around reading each egg in turn. Each was curious to know what his verse meant. All listened to the lady. No eye turned from her as she again read each verse.
Each verse contained only a few words. The finest among them went like this:
Only one thing is necessary, child. Love God!
God sees you, child. Avoid sin.
For food and drink, the giver we thank.
Trust in God. He helps in times of need.
A good child promptly obeys.
In stubbornness there is no reward.
Child, when you turn red God is warning you.
Modesty is the most beautiful attire.
People don't believe people who lie.
Hypocrisy is a rotten egg.
Earned bread makes for rosy cheeks.
Scorn, hate, and envy only bring sorrow.
A good conscience is a soft pillow.
Doing good makes you feel good.
Be prepared for eternity.
Each child made an effort to learn his verse. Each repeated the verse to himself so he would not forget it. The lady asked each child in turn if he still remembered his verse. A little help was needed here and there but soon each knew his verse by heart and could say what it meant. Indeed, several children could repeat the verses of others. Eventually they all knew each others' verses. All one had to do is start the first half of the verse when all the other children chimed in with the rest of it. The children had never learned something so quickly and easily amid mirth and laughter.
The fathers, mothers and other children who remained at home were anxious to hear and see what happy events had taken place in the valley. The children jumped for joy as they saw their parents and showed them their eggs and their verses. The parents were astonished. "Why, our children learned more in a few hours than they learn at home in half a year," they said. "And accomplishing this with joy and enthusiasm makes for easy effort." The miller stated, "Imparting that much happiness to our children is masterful work!"
The lady sent the children home with their colored eggs and gave them more egg bread. She told them, "You may eat your eggs at home but make sure to pay attention to the verses." "We won't eat them," said the children. "We'll keep them because the verses are more precious than the eggs." "That's fine," the lady said. "So long as you follow through on what you learn." Later the lady advised the parents to remind their children of the verses when the opportunity presented itself. The parents did this.
Go to pages 11-15
Imaging and translation by Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks