Pisanica is a decorated Croatian Easter egg

The tradition of decorating eggs of all kinds may go all the way back to the ancient pagans. It’s easy to see why eggs represent rebirth and life, so associating them with spring and new growth isn’t much of a stretch. To celebrate the new season, it’s said that people colored eggs and gave them to friends and family as gifts. 

In Croatia, the first signs of the tradition can be rooted in the clay eggs found in the tombs in the area of modern-day Croatia even before the 7thcentury when the Croats moved to the territory. Pisanica is a decorated Croatian Easter egg that comes from an old Slavic custom dating back to pagan times. The word pisanica is derived from the Croatian word that means “writing.” The most common phrase put on pisanica is Happy Easter, or “Sretan Uskrs.” Other common decorations are doves, crosses, flowers, traditional designs like the Croatian interlace or the Croatian coat of arms with various lyrics from the national songs, and other slogans wishing health and happiness.

During Easter, eggs would be painted with bright colors and would be given as gifts, especially to young children or a significant other. In some parts of Croatia, Easter egg was also a gift among the couples with one interesting there saying “this is an egg for a kiss.” In Dubrovnik, the girls would give their eggs to their fiancés, and future mother-in-laws would bake a braid from the dough.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Before paint became common, villagers would have to use whatever resources they had available around them to make the dyes and paints themselves. The most common color for eggs was red, due to the abundance of red beets and other vegetables like an onion. Green plants would be used for green dye. In the Međimurje area, soot would often be mixed with oak to make a dark brown color.

The various motives would be scratched into the surface of the egg usually with needles or the tip of the knife. Some decorations were also made with hot wax by applying it onto the surface of the egg with a stick and cooking it in the desired color. At the end of the process, are the eggs would be smeared with a piece of bacon for the shine effect.

The day before Easter, people go to a late-night mass carrying a basket of traditional food (including bread, cheese, and eggs (either pisanica or regular eggs). During the mass, priests bless the food, for the Easter morning breakfast.

On Easter Day, a traditional game is played in which at least two people choose eggs and hold them vertically while one person lightly taps the end of the other egg with their end, to see whose will crack. Anyone whose egg cracks must choose another and then tap the other person’s egg, and they continue until all the eggs have been used and broken but the last one. Whoever holds the strongest egg at the end which has not been cracked, wins.

Despite the commercialization of the Easter festivities and the Christian holidays in general, the tradition of Pisanica still lingers on, making us all feel joyful on this exceptional occasion!

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