Illustration for article titled Behold Eggbert, the egg who stands in for Santa in upstate New York
Photo: Devitt’s Nursery Farm

In a tiny hamlet in upstate New York, sugarplums and Santa Claus dance in childrens’ heads with a jolly, gigantic egg. Eggbert is the King of Christmas, and his court is Devitt’s Nursery & Supply in New Windsor.

According to Syracuse.com, Eggbert was hatched at Cornell University in the early 1950s as a mascot to promote the selling and purchase of eggs. He began his showbiz career at the New York State Fair and it’s fair to say he was the “It Egg” of the era. Much as the Magi crossed the desert to bow before the King of Kings, Governor Thomas E. Dewey drove four hours from Albany to the fairgrounds in Syracuse to officially declare Eggbert King of the Eggs. Eggbert eventually graced biggest stage of all: the World’s Fair.

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In 1971, Eggbert was dropped by Cornell, which sold him to a local business owner. For most eggs, a moment like this signals the end of a career, but for Eggbert, the best was yet to come.

Devitt’s Nursery & Supply, the kind of business you’d see in a Hallmark movie, was the lucky buyer. Owner Jack Devitt had an idea: If customers enjoyed being greeted so much, then why not install a 2.5-foot, 35-pound, gravel-voiced anthropomorphic egg to work the door during the holidays? Eggbert was back in action with a brand-new purpose: He would no longer be selling the public on the virtues of eating eggs. He would be selling them bags of mulch, a wide array of paving stones, and the holiday spirit.

Eggbert became a holiday fixture for boys and girls for all across the county, who would visit Devitt’s every year to read their Christmas lists to a gigantic egg who claimed he was a “close personal friend of Santa’s.” Eggbert served in this role for 28 years before going into retirement in 1999. Joe Gizzarelli—now a co-owner who has worked at Devitt’s for 32 years—tells The Takeout that Eggbert needed to retire because of his popularity. The crowds became too much for the egg, Gizzarelli said, and the nursery wasn’t large enough to accommodate his fans, who now spanned across generations. And so, Eggbert retreated into his storage closet, living a quiet life of silence and personal reflection.

Fans were vocal about Eggbert’s absence, and once Facebook happened, their voices were deafening. After 12 years of solitude, Eggbert returned to Devitt’s in 2011, the nursery by then remodeled and expanded to 25 acres that could, at last, handle the throngs of visitors every weekend from Black Friday to Boxing Day.

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If the very idea of making a pilgrimage to New Windsor, New York eggs-hausts you, there are still ways to bring the spirit of Eggbert to your yuletide celebrations. You can order an official Eggbert ornament from Devitt’s; Gizzarelli told The Takeout that he’s shipped them to homes in Australia, New Zealand, and nearly all 50 states. Or you can pour yourself a tall glass of egg nog, dim the lights, watch the video below, and pretend you’re experiencing the magic of Eggbert firsthand.

Allison Robicelli is The Takeout staff writer, a former professional chef, author of three books, and The People's Hot Pocket Princess. Questions about recipes/need cooking advice? Tweet @Robicellis.

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