As a proud, first-generation Lithuanian, Chicago counsel Paul (“Povilas”) Sarauskas has carried on the tradition of Easter egg decorating for close to 50 years. He was raised speaking Lithuanian and has maintained strong ties to his heritage.
“As a child, everyday life was ingrained in being Lithuanian, whether I liked it or not,” said Paul. “In grammar school in Cicero—a suburb of Chicago—even the nuns were Lithuanian and, when we moved to the suburbs, my Saturdays were in Lemont, where I attended six hours of school, covering history, geography, singing, dancing and… egg decorating. Yes, I’m quite an eggs-pert.”
Paul even danced in the 1972 Lithuanian Folk Dance Festival (an Olympic-style event that takes place around the world) at the old Chicago Amphitheater, where then-first lady Pat Nixon was the guest of honor. Other attendees included then-vice president Spiro Agnew, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley.
“The egg decorating started when I was about eight,” said Paul. “During Easter weekend, the family would meet in Merrillville, Indiana, and my Aunt Maryte would send all the kids into the basement while the adults would sing along with one of our family accordion players upstairs. As a side note, I grudgingly had to take accordion lessons while I was in high school, but happily my instrument got termites and my accordion days were over. The children would decorate eggs and then choose their best one. The eggs would make their way upstairs, where the jovial adults (after a few 7 and 7 cocktails) would vote and award cash prizes. After winning several years in a row, my aunt just slipped me some cash and promoted me to teacher, though I was no longer allowed to compete.”
The process is similar to batiking. Warm bees wax is applied to a hollowed-out egg with a simple tool—a pin stuck in a pencil eraser. The wax cools quickly, and underneath the wax the color remains. An egg can be colored and waxed repeatedly to add more colors and designs. Only at the end, when the wax is melted off and the colors then appear like magic. Paul has modified the process by adding a final step: glazing the eggs with clear polyurethane to give them a nice shine. On average, it takes about an hour to complete one egg.
Throughout the years, Paul has decorated literally thousands of eggs. During school, he would sell them to help cover educational expenses, including at the Thompson Center in Chicago’s Loop, where the Artisans Shop showcases the work of Illinois artists.
“During my law school years, I was selling a lot of eggs, many by word of mouth. Some ‘clients’ would find me every year, wanting that year’s version for their collection. The highlight of my (egg) career was when I was featured on the cover of the Skyline Newspaper in 1990. Strangely though, I do not own one of my eggs. I tried to start my own collection, but each year I’d remember someone else who needed an egg, and mine would be happily gifted away.”
Paul continues the tradition today, making 30-60 eggs per year, only gifting them to family, friends and some colleagues. He usually starts decorating in late winter, finding it very relaxing, almost therapeutic, and a way to warm the home during cold Chicago winters. Paul annually decorates with his favorite pupil, his niece Sophia, who will carry on the tradition. This year they’ll don masks, and next year Sophia hopes to be able to once again hold egg-decorating parties with her friends, who like to join the fun. While the eggs are dispersed around the world, Paul’s mother, Rasa, boasts the largest collection, which she proudly displays all year.
Linksmų Šventų Velykų! (Happy Easter!)
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