Kraslice comes from the words krasná and vejce meaning beautiful eggs. Decorating eggs originated as a pagan Slavic tradition celebrating spring and new life. The tradition has since been associated with Easter across Central and Eastern Europe. At Easter, the eggs are made to display and share and at Christmas, the eggs are hung as ornaments on the tree.
Many Eastern European countries still decorate eggs. Polish eggs are called wycinaki and are usually decorated with paper designs of animals and flowers. Lithuanian eggs are called marguciai and use the wax method or dye and scratch. They often have dot and tear drop motifs. Ukrainian eggs are called pysanky and use the wax method with an instrument call kistka that holds the wax while you draw. Many pysanky designs are geometric and can be found often in the US and immigrant communities.
The eggs promote fertility, luck and blessings. They are also said to have healing and protective powers. When King Charles IV commissioned a bridge to be made in Prague in the 14th Century, eggs were thought to strengthen the bricks. The bridge stands strong to this day as Charles Bridge. In the Czech Republic, eggs are given and exchanged as symbols of love, friendship, and good will.
There are many methods used to dye eggs. Most popular is the Batik method which uses beeswax and layers of dye to create designs on the eggs. Slovakia, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic often dye their eggs in a single color and scratch a design using a knife or needle. This method was brought to the States from Moravia during our early years of immigration. Some people use colored wax (such as crayons) to draw on the egg without dyeing. Straw, leaves, and flowers can be pasted to the egg (sometimes using old pantyhose to hold them in place) and then dyed. Once dry, the pastings are removed to reveal the shape. The shells can also be encased in copper wire, which is more popular in Slovakia. The most complicated methods are carved or drilled eggs, which appear lacey and delicate. (I tried this once and it was a disaster).
Common colors for Kraslice are orange, red, yellow, white, black, and sometimes green and blue.
The designs are usually flowers and animals, but geometric motifs like glass church windows are common too.
Kraslice are not boiled, but blown out unlike dyed eggs in America, and the whites and yolks are used for Easter baking. If you want to try the wax method its best if you use large eggs and clean them with warm water and vinegar. Wash your hands to free them of oils that can alter the wax. Use a pin attached to a pencil eraser for ease in your design and dye before you blow out the egg so it is not as fragile. Also, use beeswax because it has a higher melting point (so the heat from your hands won’t rub off the wax), better coverage, and is resistant to dyes (so your colors won’t blend or fade). Finally, cover your eggs in oil based shellac to preserve and strengthen them.
Czech here for a great tutorial (don’t judge me for linking you to a pysanky tutorial): http://www.thatartistwoman.org/2009/03/pysanky-ukrainian-easter-eggs.html
These are great videos in egg decorating:
- About kraslice: https://youtu.be/xtjq0SF40K0
- The wax method: https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=PK0DIACh0Mk
- The carving method: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=_XZ-TFuIxDQ
- Ukrainian pysanky: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Vy0CiVogfeI
You can find more about Kraslice and other Slavic eggs at these sites:
Finally, here are some Kraslice I painted last year: