PISANICA – Easter Egg
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  Posted March 24th, 2016 by Zdenko  in Purgerska Nostalgija, Travel | No comments yet.

Travel Croatia

By: Zdenko Kahlina

Traditional Croatian Easter eggs in Croatia/Pisanica
Easter is just around the corner and Croats, like the majority of other Slavic nations, respect the ancient custom of coloring eggs the day before the actual festivity. A newly dyed egg is called a pisanica, a term derived from the word “pisati” (to write). This is because pisanicas are supposed to be gifted and often feature an inscribed message.

Pisanica_Jelacic_trgPisanica at the main square in Zagreb

Pisanica eggs are also used in a popular Easter game, during which two players gently tap two eggs against each other until one cracks slightly. The one with fully intact egg is victorious.

But coloring pisanica eggs is also a form of art, which the traditional Easter exhibition in Koprivnica proves every year on the town’s Zrinski Square. The eggs there are not real, as can be seen from their very size, but the process of artistic coloring is the same as in the case of authentic eggs laid by hens.


Pisanica is a decorated Croatian Easter egg that comes from an old Slavic custom dating back to pagan times. Pisanica which is a common and popular tradition among many Croatians and Slavic peoples is a big part of Easter celebrations. It’s popularity come from our Pagan roots which was so popular that it was incorporated into the Christian religion. Much like other Pagan customs and beliefs into other Christian holidays. I don’t think there would be any way that this Pagan custom could ever be abolished by religious authorities. That would be tantamount to abolishing the drinking of Sljivovica, Vino or the eating of pork. (Pečena svinjetina, Not going to happen). Anyway, here is a little background information on Pisanica, and it’s relation to Croatian/Slavic history. I’ve also added some information about how one can make some basic Easter Eggs, if one feels so inclined, at home using very natural ingredients and simple methods that the whole family can participate in.

Pisanice3Traditional Croatian Easter eggs in Croatia/Pisanica

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. In the Međimurje area, soot would often be mixed with oak to make a dark brown color. Green plants would be used for green dye. The word pisanica is derived from the Croatian word that means “writing.” The most common phrase put on pisanicas is Happy Easter, or “Sretan Uskrs.” Other common decorations are doves, crosses, flowers, traditional designs, and other slogans wishing health and happiness.

Pisanice4Pisanice throughout the city of Zagreb

The day before Easter, Roman Catholics and other Christians 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, the priests bless the food, which are kept for the next morning to eat.

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

The tradition of egg decoration in Slavic cultures originated in pagan times, and was transformed by the process of religious syncretism into the Christian Easter egg. Nevertheless, these decorated eggs have retained much of their pagan symbolism.

Many Slavic ethnic groups, including the Bulgarians (писано яйце, pisano yaytse), Croats (pisanica), Czechs (kraslice), Poles (pisanka), Serbs (писаница, pisanica), Slovaks (kraslica), Sorbs, Slovenes (pisanica or pirh), and Ukrainians (писанка, pysanka), decorate eggs for Easter. Many of the names derive from the Slavic root pisa which relates to writing. In Slavic tradition, the egg (similar to icons) is written, not drawn or painted. This is an Eastern European tradition, since Romanians, a Latin ethnic group, have it too (ouă încondeiate).


The pattern is often applied to an egg by the process of wax-resist, similar to batik. A stylus is used to apply hot wax to the shell of an egg, which is placed in a series of dye baths. The wax seals the dye into the egg; the colors and pattern are revealed when the wax is removed (by melting it off) at the end.

Other techniques include “drop-pull” eggs, a variation on batik which uses a simple pin head to apply wax; a “scratch” technique, where dye is applied to an egg and then patterns scratched onto the shell; painted eggs, where the shells are painted using a brush; and various versions of appliqué, where items (straw, paper, beads, sequins) are glued to the shell of an egg.

DSC04287An Easter egg – Pisanica, in downtown Zagreb

While decorated eggs of various Slavic nations have much in common, national traditions vary.

Have a good and healthy season.

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