Easter without eggs? Local families shift traditions during pandemic

Coronavirus

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Easter will look different for families across Central Texas this year.

Many churches have moved to virtual services during the COVID-19 pandemic, and large-scale egg hunts are put on hold to encourage adherence to limits on public gatherings.

decorated-door-Lynn-Gniot
Lynn Gniot decorated her door as part of a neighborhood effort to replace the annual Easter egg hunt. (Photo Courtesy: Lynn Gniot)

In Lynn Gniot’s north Austin neighborhood, families are decorating their doors with Easter themes. She estimated about 50 neighbors have decorated, a replacement for the annual egg hunt the area organizes for local kids.

“Our neighborhood just really steps up and does things for the kids,” Gniot said.

It’s not the only tradition she’s having to alter this year. Only one of her three grown kids will be at the dinner table; the other two, serving in the military, can’t travel.

What’s more, she won’t be able to dye eggs because, like many other families, she can’t find them.

“Where most people can’t find toilet paper, I can’t find eggs,” Gniot said. “I tried to go to Walmart this morning,” she said. “I was there at 7 o’clock to get eggs and they were sold out already.”

‘It’s been nutty’

At Coyote Creek Organic Farm in Elgin, demand for their pasture-raised eggs has been high for the last month.

“It’s been nutty,” owner Rob Cunningham said. “The phone’s been ringing off the hook.”

The farm sends 60,000-80,000 eggs a week to local grocery stores, including Whole Foods, Natural Grocers and Wheatsville Co-op. Thursday was pickup day at the property, where two coolers were stacked with about 440 crates of 15 dozen eggs. By the end of the day, Cunningham said, both coolers would be empty and those eggs would be headed to store shelves.

A chicken jumps on Rob Cunningham’s back during a video chat interview with KXAN on Thursday, April 9, 2020. (Image Courtesy: Rob Cunningham)

“Our retail orders have increased by probably two-thirds,” he said, “but the problem with that is that we can’t just all of a sudden have more chickens that are laying eggs.”

The farm has a 22,000-hen laying operation, meaning they collect 13,000-14,000 eggs by hand every day. Until this week, Cunningham was reserving a small number of eggs to sell directly to customers who ordered online. His farm set up a no-contact pickup process, but Thursday decided to end pickups entirely out of concerns over spreading COVID-19.

That means an additional 50-60 dozen eggs will be going to local grocery stores. It’ll help some, but it’s not going to make a big difference in the overall Austin egg market. That’s why he’s discouraging people this Easter from buying eggs they don’t plan on eating.

“If you’re going to dye an egg and you’re going to hide it in the yard,” he said, “eat it after that.”

Every egg counts.

‘Communities can still come together’

KXAN posed the question to viewers on Facebook: How are you celebrating Easter this year?

ryan bennett cardboard eggs
Amazon boxes make for colorful eggs for Ryan Bennett’s yard. (Photo Courtesy: Ryan Bennett)

Ryan Bennett posted a photo of his family’s art project, turning their pile of Amazon boxes into painted eggs to place in their yard on Sunday.

“The neighbors are going to [do] the same,” he wrote, “and then on Sunday while practicing social distancing we can walk around the neighborhood and look at all the eggs the neighbors made and hid in their yards.”

Church services are also impacted by the virus. Gov. Greg Abbott deemed houses of faith essential, so they’re allowed to operate normally, but he encouraged them to continue offering virtual services or limit gatherings to 10 people.

“We are making our own sunrise service,” Claire Stires wrote. “We will go out to the back of our property that overlooks pasture and have our own service.”

Kris Dauth Jensen will instead “be watching Biblical movies all day,” and Tina Marie Hatfield said she’ll be doing a church service at home with her family before her teenagers hunt eggs because “there’s nothing else to do.”

making cascarones - Araceli Torres
Araceli Torres keeps her family’s tradition alive this year, dyeing eggs to make cascarones. (Photo Courtesy: Araceli Torres)

But some traditions are moving forward as planned. Araceli Torres started making cascarones, those confetti-filled egg shells, last weekend. She might not have as many heads to crack them on, but she’s keeping the tradition strong.

Gniot, meanwhile, is trying something new this year, video-conferencing with her two kids who can’t be in town for the holiday.

She’s thankful to live in a neighborhood that puts an emphasis on togetherness, especially in trying times.

“Communities can still come together, even staying away,” she said. She hopes the decorations on her and her neighbors’ doors show that.

“It’s not always the big grand gesture,” she said. “I think it’s the little things that change and help and show people as a community that we are there for each other.”

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