Easter eggs were made in Holy Week – the first were given to the closest, i.e., most often to godchildren already on Holy Thursday, eggs painted on Good Friday and Saturday were given to loved ones and friends. Their colour is significant: red – love, green – hope, yellow – jealousy, black – for important people.
Easter in Poland is all about the observation of Catholic rituals related to the resurrection of Christ, homemade decorations and food, and spending time at the table with family and loved ones.
The habit of staining and decorating eggs was probably born around 3,000 BC in Assyria and, according to some sources in Persia. This Christian ritual of using the egg for celebration at Easter dates back hundreds of years, while the egg itself has been a symbol of fertility and revival for thousands of years. Archaeological materials indicate that the egg was revered for its magical, life-bestowing qualities by the Slavs long before the advent of Christianity.
Originally, eggs were most often dyed red (blood – the essence of life) and sacrificed to deities. Faith in the importance of the egg as a symbol of reborn life and victory over death has survived to this day, and the custom of decorating eggs has become associated with the traditions of Easter. In the past, only women and girls were involved in decorating, and the painting of eggs was surrounded by mystery.
One of the most popular elements of the Polish Easter festivities involves painting and decorating eggs, called pisanki.
Natural dyes that were once used to dye Easter eggs:
– yellow – from a decoction of alder and birch leaves, chamomile flowers or young pear bark and the apple tree,
– red – linden bark, elderberry and berries,
– burgundy – of red beetroot,
– shades from orange, through red to dark brown – from boiled onion shells,
– black – from oak bark, alder or ripe elderberry fruit,
– green – from shoots of young rye, grass or herbs,
– purple – from the petals of a mallows’ flowers or dried violet petals.
The eggs can be decorated in many creative ways, after which they are placed into a basket and – together with other traditional foods – are carried to the Church to be blessed. Afterwards, the family shares them at the table.
Several basic egg decorating techniques are known, characteristic of the region. The oldest of them – the batik technique is the most common and occurs in many regions, e.g., in Silesia. It consists of ‘writing’ the pattern with hot wax with a special funnel or a pinhead and then putting the finished egg in a colouring solution.
This action can be repeated, immersing the egg in an increasingly dark dye and obtaining a multicoloured decoration. The egg decorated with this method is called pisanka (Easter egg).
The most popular in the Silesia region, however, is a kraszanka (kroszonka) also called a drawing or scratcher.
The Silesian kroszonka is an egg decorated by engraving. After colouring the egg to a uniform colour (often in onion shells), scrape the pattern with a sharp tool, e. g., a knife, scalpel or razor blade (formerly people used to use a sewing knife, called gnyp). The most common motive of Silesian kroszonki is plant ornaments: palm trees, flowers, leaves.