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Easter Egg Trees Become Increasingly Popular With Traditionalists, Retailers

March 17, 1989

EXETER, R.I. (AP) _ The old custom of decorating Easter egg trees is as much a part of the holiday in some homes as Easter baskets, and now it’s spreading.

″This year, we’re expecting about 100 percent growth rate over last year,″ said Barry Vaill, owner of the Country Christmas Store, which begins stocking Easter trees almost as soon as the season ends for the Christmas versions.

Some people snip spring branches and spray-paint them white or other colors, and others decorate artificial Christmas trees or even house plants with Easter-theme baubles.

The Exeter-based store, which displays roughly a dozen Easter trees of differing themes, expects to sell about 100 trees ranging from $20 to $250, he said. Some are table-height and others are up to 7 or 8 feet tall.

The trees have religious meaning to some and are simply festive to others.

Years ago, when Emily Nero, 59, of Providence first started decorating an Easter tree after seeing the idea in a magazine, virtually all her ornaments were hand made.

″You can make them - it’s more traditional,″ she said as she shopped for ornaments. ″But the ones you can buy are beautiful and they save time.″

The Country Christmas Store stocks decorations of porcelain, glass, papier mache, wood and ceramic made in countries like Taiwan and West Germany. In addition to the traditional egg shape, people can decorate trees with Easter bunnies, chicks, lambs, ribbons and the like.

″The manufacturers got smart about four years ago″ and started coming out with Easter decorations, said Vaill. The selection has grown ever since, he said, calling this year ″the best I’ve ever seen in terms of variety.″

The origins of the egg tree have been lost in oblivion, according to the book, ″An Egg at Easter: A Folklore Study,″ by Newall Venetia.

The practice is enjoying new popularity because ″people are going back to the old-fashioned ways of doing things, where they decorate their house for Christmas and Halloween - passing the tradition down from generation to generation,″ Vaill said.

″It’s kind of fun,″ said Lisa Goyette, 24, of Providence, who continues the custom she grew up with. ″When you grow older and you don’t have Easter baskets, the tree makes it festive.″

Goyette said her mother, a devout Roman Catholic, decorates an egg tree because it symbolizes rebirth and rejuvenation. The tree at her mother’s Eastham, Mass., home, is decorated on Palm Sunday and stays up until Easter Sunday.

In some places, it has become such a tradition that the entire town participates.

In Decatur, Ind., the practice of decorating a public Easter tree with hundreds of eggs began in 1951, said Joyce Iliff, director of the Decatur Pulbic Library, where the tree is displayed.

The town originated the yearly custom a year after publication of the book, ″The Egg Tree,″ by Kathleen Milhous.

Vaill said decorating Easter trees is a natural welcoming of the springtime.

″Easter is a breath of fresh air. After Christmas, when it’s cold and dreary and it’s dark. Even football’s over,″ he said.

″Whether they go get a branch out of the back yard and spray paint it white, or whether they’re buying one of our trees, people are doing one or the other,″ said Vaill.

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