This is the day when Frances Burke will reach under her bed, pull out one of the plastic tubs there and add another dozen Good Friday eggs to her collection.
Frances, who lives in DeWitt, may be one of the nation’s only collectors of Good Friday eggs.
Eggs laid on Good Friday are claimed to never rot. Frances knows because she has stashed under her bed 30 dozen intact dried-out Good Friday eggs. She has been collecting them for 54 years.
The legend of never rotting is true. For a dozen years I had one of her Good Friday eggs carefully perched on the top of my desk. It was feather light. One day it was knocked to the floor and broke. It was bone dry inside. It never had rotted.
There is something religiously special about Good Friday eggs. A Bavarian legend says that if an egg laid on Good Friday is kept on the shelf of a house, the place never will get struck by lightning. Hot cross buns baked on Good Friday are supposed to have magical powers. They won’t mold or get rock hard. A loaf of bread baked on a Good Friday — and safely stored — is claimed to protect a house from fire.
Whatever the magic power may be, Frances should have a lifetime of good luck.
Today, she will go to the farm of Paul Kreitel, who farms near DeWitt, and collect a dozen of the eggs laid by his chickens on this Good Friday.
“Saving Good Friday eggs is a family tradition,” says Frances, who insists that she never had a Good Friday egg rot. “Once, our Uncle Andy was skeptical and put a regular egg alongside a Good Friday egg on a shelf. There was a putrid stink. The regular egg rotted, but the Good Friday egg was just fine.”
The odd custom began in the 1920s with the McConohys, an Irish family who farmed in an area with the charming name of Villa Nova, near Charlotte, Iowa. “It had something to do with the crucifying of Jesus on Good Friday,” Frances says.
“When I married my late husband, Bob, who was a member of that family, I had misgivings. I thought to myself, ‘This has got to be a weird family — a family that collects eggs laid on Good Friday. I was encouraged by an aunt, Genevieve McConohy Bickel. She was a big collector of Good Friday eggs and when she died, I got her collection. The oldest is dated Good Friday, 1945.”
Frances is adamantly serious about her collection of 160 Good Friday eggs. No foolishness.
“Never has a single one in my Good Friday egg collection spoiled. It’s magic. The insides just dry up until they weigh lighter than a baby chick. I began collecting them in 1952, but my husband always broke the shells to show people how they never spoiled. I didn’t get serious about my personal stash until 1957, and it’s been a yearly tradition ever since.”
Frances lived for many years in a big house on 6th Avenue in DeWitt. There was plenty of room to store the Good Friday eggs. But when she moved to a condominium, she was short on storage space and began keeping her eggs in two big plastic tubs under her bed. Each year, the eggs are dated and signed with her name.
She wonders what people think about her Good Friday egg hobby. She laughs, “What will people say about someone who keeps old eggs under her bed?”
She insists, “It’s a family tradition. I have one daughter who vows to keep it going.”
But she reasons, “Someday, the dated Good Friday eggs may be worth a lot of money on eBay.”
Contact Bill Wundram at (563) 383-2249 or email@example.com.