Bright and colorful, springtime Victorian traditions merge into period-style decorations we can enjoy today.
The Victorians were fascinated with transforming blown-out eggs and broken eggshells into unique Easter toys and gifts. They created objects such as acorns, nests and teacups; favorite animal designs included pigs, owls, cats, rabbits, spiders and roosters. Tissue-paper clad Humpty Dumpty designs, brownies, soldiers, women in ball gowns and fairies delighted children. Historical and literary figures such as Mary, Queen of Scots; Sir Walter Raleigh; Romeo and Juliet; Pocahontas; Martha Washington and Little Lord Fauntleroy required greatly detailed costumes.
Egg-coloring and ornamenting advice came from The Delineator’s April 1896 “Odd and Pretty Easter Trifles” and “The Work Table,” April 1898. Store-bought dyes or homemade dyes from coffee, saffron, cochineal, bluing water and logwood provided color; washing eggs wrapped in calico created mottled effects. Hard-boiled eggs could be gilded, silvered, etched or coated with luster powder or diamond dust. As the new century turned, Easter-egg dye transfer pictures added holiday and contemporary images. Easter was quite a remarkable Victorian celebration, which we can marvel at today for all its creativity and charm.
Symbolism to Incorporate into your Springtime Crafts
• Easter chicks, the Easter bunny, rabbits, colored eggs, butterflies and spring flowers popped up everywhere on Victorian gifts, candy containers, greeting cards, in advertising and as die-cut scraps.
• Eggs represented the awakening of nature in the spring.
• The Easter rabbit, dedicated to the Germanic spring goddess Ostara, laid Easter eggs, according to German myth.
To learn more about how the Victorians celebrated Easter-and how you too can enjoy the holiday in the grand 19th-century style–click here and here. If you try these craft and decor ideas, share your stories and photos with us in the comments below! We’d love to hear from you.
Written and photographed by Barbara Johnson, Ph.D., the author of Antique & Vintage Fashions, 1745 to 1979 and Valentines, A Collector’s Guide, 1700s-1950s, both by Collector Books. All photographed items are part of her collection.