Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Easter traditions: Decorating eggs and... fighting!

After the long forty-day Lenten season (or short as it seemed to me this year) we are on the threshold of the Easter celebration: the most glorious of all days for the Church. As you make your holiday preparations, I'm sure that you are planning to decorate Easter eggs in some way. Why not try your hand at dyeing eggs in the style of the Hungarian, Croatian and other Eastern European cultures?

The tradition of decorating Easter eggs goes back over a thousand years. For centuries eggs were colored red, representing the blood of Christ. Only about three-hundred years ago were other colors introduced. They often featured ancient symbols (and still do today). The Hungarian eggs, called hímestojás, can have geometric designs or decorations showing a resemblance to the embroidery that Hungary is known for.

Croatian Easter eggs, called pisanice (meaning "to write") are often decorated with a white star in southern Croatia and with flowers, pines and various geometric shapes in other parts of the country. The eggs were traditionally colored with natural dyes from vegetables like onions and beets.

Want to try your hand at these beautifully decorated eggs this Easter? Probably the most popular method is to use hot liquid wax. Pencil-like instruments or small knives are used to reveal decorations by removing the wax after coloring. To get a nice shine on your eggs, you can use oil to polish them. What a beautiful basket of eggs you can have for Easter, give or take one or two duds when you first start out.

No success with any of your attempts at decorating Easter eggs the traditional way? You might like one Croatian Easter egg tradition that would allow you to dispose of your egg decorating failures. Croatians dispense with Easter egg hunts and instead have an egg fight! Called kockanje or tucanje (tuca), this simple game involves holding a hard-boiled egg in your hand and trying to hit the top of everyone else's egg with your own without breaking yours. The winner is the one with the intact egg at the end.

Photo of Hungarian hímestojás by Emese Kerkay and published in the American Hungarian Museum Publication, Passaic, NJ and online at the Hungarian Heritage Museum website.

For more information on Hungarian Easter customs, see Culinaria Hungary.

The Best of Croatian Cooking has a page on Croatian Easter celebrations and includes many appropriate recipes for the season.


  1. Wow - more fighting eggs! And I thought it was only a Greek tradition. I guess given the proximity to some of the Balkan nations/cultures this makes sense. Thanks Lisa for letting me in on this tradition.

  2. Hi Lisa,

    Would you mind if I included this article in the upcoming edition of the carnival of Central and Eastern European Genealogy?



  3. I'd be happy to have you include it in your carnival, Jessica.

    Thanks for thinking of doing so.


  4. Great article, Lisa! I always wondered what the symbols on those beautiful eggs were all about.

  5. As I've been doing some internet genealogy I have been able to find out some traditions of my ancestors. I haven't had any traditions quite like this come up, but there have been some very interesting ones!


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