Eggs are given as gifts around Easter time in many countries, but they are not always made of chocolate. In Eastern Europe, egg decorating is taken to a heightened art form, using real hen’s eggs.
Some of the methods include the batik dye method whereby the entire egg is wrapped in several knots made of wires, and then brushed with wax. As with the typical tie dye method, the surface is scratched to reveal the underlying colors, which forms the pattern. Materials used include bee’s wax, straw and watercolors. Some eggs are also made from purely natural materials, including clay, wood, twigs, straw and even linen.
In the Czech Republic, Easter typically means the heralding of spring because any religious connotations were buried under the table with communism. Even though Easter is by no means a huge or significant religious holiday in the Republic, the traditions of hand painting the eggs are strong and vibrant. By far the most recognizable patterns are the geometric ones, especially in various shades of the same color, but you’ll also see leaves and flowers and other patterns like snowflakes. Red and other bright colors are thought to symbolize joy and happiness, so many Easter eggs are decked in these, especially with the advent of spring.
Many regions in the Czech Republic have acquired certain specialties when it comes to decorating the Easter egg: in Valassko (Wallachia), eggs are decked in certain colors to depict roosters (red, orange and black). In South Moravia, Easter eggs make use of the scratching (tie dye) technique. Because these eggs were actually given as gifts, it was unthinkable to give someone pure white eggs without any thought or effort behind them.
In Prague, a shop called Manufaktura, was created to preserve and present Czech and Moravian craft which is in danger of disappearing nowadays. The shop has managed to bring together more than 250 small craftsmen, former masters of folk production, to ensure that this tradition stays
Here is how one girl recounts this tradition of swapping a whipping for a highly prized and decorated egg:
Me and my sister used to love making kraslice either from boiled or blown eggs using different techniques – bee’s wax, hay, watercolours, onion peels and picture stickers. And Mom the gingerbread lamb. There was no lie-in on Easter Monday, as boys would come carolling to our door from early morning. They would recite an Easter carol, asking for an egg, while symbolically whipping us, the girls, on the legs with a pomlázka (literally ‘making younger’) – willow braided whip. The pagan tradition being that willow twigs are supposed to bring health and youth to anyone who is whipped with them. Boys would either make their own pomlázkas or buy them in shops.
A saying goes that if you are not whipped by a pomlázka, you will dry up and wilt away within a year. We would then reward the boys with painted eggs and tie a ribbon around their pomlázkas (the older ones would also get a shot of liquor). If the boy chose a red painted egg, it meant he fancied you. There is a time limit of midday for boys to be allowed to knock on your door, if they come later than 12 o’clock, girls can douse them with water.
The magic of Great Nights somehow evaporated in my early teens when Easter traditions suddenly became embarrassing and the logic of labouring over an egg to give to someone who whips you incomprehensible. I know that my Mom has made her kraslice this year again and there is a pomlázka in the house for Dad to make her and my sisters ‘younger’. As I myself get older and drier each year, perhaps I wouldn’t mind being whipped a little again 😀
Eggs are also found in traditional designs from Opoczno, Opatow, Opole, and other regions of Poland.
Something to Ponder About this Eastertime