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Pisanka (Polish)

Polish pisanka (plural pisanki) is a common name for an egg (usually that of a chicken, although goose or duck eggs are also used) ornamented using various techniques. Originating as a pagan tradition, pisanki were absorbed by Christianity to become the traditional Easter egg. Pisanki now symbolise the revival of nature and the hope that Christians gain from faith in the resurrection of Jesus.

There are various types of pisanki, based on the technique and preparation used:

  • Kraszanki (sometimes called malowanki or byczki) are made by boiling an egg in a decoction of plants or other natural products. The colour of kraszanka depends on the kind of product used:
  • Drapanki or skrobanki are made by scratching the surface of a kraszanka with a sharp tool to reveal the white of the egg shell.
  • Pisanki are created by drawing (Polish: pisanie) on an egg shell covered with a layer of molten wax, or alternately drawing designs with wax on a bare egg. The egg is then submerged into a dye.
  • Naklejanki or nalepianki are decorated with petals of elderberry, scraps of colourful paper (including wycinanki) or with patches of cloth. Popular in Łowicz and the surrounding area.
  • Oklejanki or wyklejanki are decorated with bulrush pith or yarn. They are common in the Podlasie region of Poland.

The oldest known Polish pisanki date from the 10th century, although it is probable that eggs were decorated by Slavic peoples even earlier.

In the past, only women decorated eggs. Men were not allowed to come inside the house during the process, as it was believed that they could put a spell on the eggs, and cause bad luck.

Until the 12th century, the Catholic church forbade the consumption of eggs during Easter. The church wished to distance itself from the pagan roots of the tradition connected with the cult of the dead, in which the egg played an important role as a symbol of rebirth. This ban was lifted, but it was necessary to offer a special prayer before eating.

Today in Poland, eggs and pisanki are hallowed on Easter Saturday along with the traditional Easter basket. On Easter Sunday, before the ceremonial breakfast, these eggs are exchanged and shared among the family at the table. This is a symbol of friendship, similar to the sharing of the Opłatek (Christmas wafer) on Christmas Eve.

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