Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Living as an expat in a new country opens your eyes to new traditions and experiences.

Last year, we were greeted with Easter Snow Bunnies near our hotel on our first night in Poland. We didn’t know about this tradition! Luckily, this year, Easter falls later in April (Sunday, April 20th) and our weather is warm and spring-like.
 An Easter Snow Bunny on April 1, 2013, in Warsaw. 
This past week, I just learned about the colorful tradition of Polish pisanki, which are real eggs usually decorated with melted beeswax and then dyed for Easter. The pisanki I’ve seen so far here in Warsaw are exceptionally beautiful! Take a look:
Polish pisanki are named after the verb verb 'pisać' which in contemporary Polish means 'to write' yet in old Polish also meant 'to paint.' Yesterday, I watched a woman demonstrate how to make Polish pisanki as part of my expat group called International Women’s Group of Warsaw. She heated the beeswax over a candle, dipped the stylus tool into the wax and “wrote” on the egg making various designs. Later, she dyed the egg, then removed the wax by heating it over the candle and rubbing off the wax with a towel. Thus, revealing the intricate design and pattern on the egg.
There are even various types of Polish pisanki, based on the technique and preparation used. For example, at my favorite farmer’s market, Hala Mirowska, I bought a basketful of malowanki – hand-painted Easter eggs. Luckily, these are wooden and not fragile real ones!
Another variety is called drapanki – solid-color eggs with a design scratched onto the surface after they are dyed. I only bought one of these because drapanki cost 20-30 pln ($6-10) each instead of the 7 pln ($2.50) I paid for the handmade pisanki made with beeswax and dye. (Meanwhile on Etsy, you’ll pay upwards of 70 pln (about $23) PER egg if you want to buy outside of Poland!)
Lastly, another variety you’ll find is nalepianki – eggs decorated with paper cut-outs or straw. The Polish rooster seems to be a popular motif for these Easter eggs.
Did you know that Polish pisanki are usually made to be given to your family and close friends as a symbolic wish for the gift of life? The eggs can be saved from year to year and sometimes are even blessed at church during the Easter celebrations. I won’t be visiting my family until Christmas, so these pisanki are all mine.

Did you also know there’s even a Muzeum Pisanki in Poland? This small museum in the town of Ciechanowiec, 140 km northeast of Warsaw, is dedicated to the history of Polish Easter eggs and more from Eastern Europe. Hopefully, I can drag hubby here one of these days.
More Polish pisanki for sale at an ornament store on Emilii Plater in Warsaw. 
Meanwhile at home, we simply dyed Easter eggs with some of our colleagues’ children the old-fashioned way – store-bought dye kits! Last weekend, the kids had fun getting their hands messy with dye and putting stickers on the Easter eggs. I’ve been eating a lot of egg salad this week!
Maybe next year, I’ll get a bit more crafty and attempt to make my own Polish pisanki!

To those of you who will celebrate Easter this weekend, Happy Easter!

***Please check out what some of my fellow bloggers have to say about celebrating Easter abroad and at home:

Tagged: , , , , ,


Lois B said...

I had no idea there was a museum dedicated to these eggs; sounds like fun.

This is my last Easter in Poland, so I think I need to pick up a few more eggs this week@ ;-)

Joy said...

@Lois, yes, I thought museum sounded cool too! Do you know yet where you are off to next? :-)

Cuisine de Provence said...

These eggs are magnificent! I will be dying real eggs the next few days, too.

jaz@octoberfarm said...

pisanki are very popular in this city! there are classes all over town teaching people how to make them. we have the wooden ones too! happy easter joy!

Joy said...

@Barbara, thanks! Hope you have a lovely Easter! See you in about 6 weeks! ;-)

Joy said...

@Joyce, Interesting! I had NO idea there were so many people with Polish roots in Pennsylvania! :-) Happy Easter to you and your family as well!

Miss Nancy said...

I bet you would do a great job decorating pysanky eggs, given your cookie icing ability! I picked up the hobby a few years back and found it one of the most relaxing crafts I've ever done. Of course, mine weren't quite up to true Polish standards!

Joy said...

Awww...thanks! I would like to try the pisanki at least. I imagine it just takes lots of practice to get right! :-)

TravellingAK said...

In Germany you can buy already-dyed eggs in the supermarket all year around, you boil and eat them just like normal eggs. So weird to see. For Easter I can understand but rest of the year?!?

TravellingAK said...

No snow Easter bunnies this year I hope, btw?
Really can't let go of the thought of the beautiful Easter eggs. We'd paint or draw eggs in Sweden but it was a long time ago and I never saw as pretty ones as the bee wax ones from Poland. And I don't get more creative than wrapping them in onion peel and then boiled nowadays. Should let myself be inspired by your post

Joy said...

@A-K, happy Easter wherever you may be right now! :-) Luckily, our temps were 21 C yesterday and 15 today for Easter. I certainly can't complain!

Yes, the Polish Easter eggs are beautiful! I hope I can learn how to make them someday.

Phillip, son of Boleslaw and Stefania, husband of Joyce, father of Matthew and Michael, and Dziadek of Margaret, Suzanne, Alex, Louisa, and Henry.. said...

I'm going to try my hand at wooden eggs this year.

What type of paint do you think should be used? I think spraying a sealer, like shellac, then a coat of a neutral primer, and then a finish coat of the final color would be a good start.

I like the process of inserting a straight-pin into a pencil's eraser and using the head as the stylus.

Any thoughts?

Cheryl Tromley said...

Is there a website that has designs and the meaning behind it? Do they differ due to location or family heritage?I was too young to learn when the Zielinski women gathered for Easter prep.
Cheryl Zielinski Tromley