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Expert recommendations and insider tips for first-time visitors and locals alike from ARTĚL’s founder, Karen Feldman, who has lived in Prague since 1994. Click on the links below for detailed reviews – from Feldman’s own unique perspective – of all the best that Prague has to offer...

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Decorating Easter Eggs the Czech Way

Published on March 24th, 2016 in Entertainment

  • Painting Easter Eggs in a Bohemian Village, 1940

  • Boys collecting branches for their pomlázka,1958 (photo: www.pohlednice-sberatelstvi.cz)

  • Easter customs in Domaniža, 1966 (photo courtesy of www.dobrenoviny.sk)

  • Easter customs in Domaniža, 1966 (photo courtesy of www.dobrenoviny.sk)

  • Folk artist Agnes Studničková in Easter egg competition, 1978 (photo: na.nulk.cz)

  • Easter postcard, 1918 (photo courtesy of www.vcm-sbirky.cz)

  • Village people, 1940

  • Moravian maidens painting the façade of a house, 1941

 

The Czech Republic does Easter (Velikonoce) in a big way. But not the Easter of bunny rabbits and egg hunts—the Czech celebration involves a lot of booze, a bizarre whipping ritual where men spank women with a colorful bundles of pussy willow (pomlázka), and ornate decorated egg (kraslice) that put all of us Paas-loving Americans to shame.

 

A number of my Czech friends swear by the onion-skin method of coloring eggs that has been an Easter staple for generations. Interestingly, I recently discovered that dying eggs in onion peel is also a Passover tradition in the Jewish faith so, for me, the two customs intersect nicely.

 

This technique produces richly-hued golden eggs which you can decorate with the geometric and floral design decals that are commonly found in shops during the Easter season, though I’ve even been told that some families would collect delicate leaves, press them onto the egg, then wrap the eggs in cloth or a section of cheap pantyhose before boiling to create a pretty natural stamp. 

 

For the onion dye, all that’s needed is a sack of onions and a dozen eggs. Peel the onions, add the peelings to a large pot, put in your eggs, fill with water to cover, and boil for about 10 minutes.

 

Alternatively you can boil the onion skins with water and a splash of vinegar, then soak the eggs in the resulting liquid. Substitute diced beets or chopped purple cabbage for the onion skins for a wider range of gem-toned colors.

 

 

 

Left: Marie Jankových painting Easter eggs, c.1959 (photo: horninemci.cz)  |  Right: Easter Greetings Postcard, 1919 (photo source: J. Weniga)  

 

 

Natural dyes are not the only Czech egg-decorating technique. In Moravia, where folk customs still play an important role in daily life, hand painted eggs are crafted months in advance of Easter using a variety of striking motifs and complicated styles that include batiking and wrapping eggs in a fine decorative wire. 

 

These are the stunningly ornate eggs that the Czech Republic is famous for; they are also hollowed out by mouth blowing—if you are an expat parent this is a skill you will need to acquire as you’ll be asked to bring blown-out eggs to your child’s school for decorating!

 

Decorative eggs are displayed in baskets or dangled from trees with ribbon while boiled eggs are served as an Easter delicacy alongside the rabbit and Easter stuffing (nádivka), sponge cake in the shape of lamb (beránek), sweet bread (mazanec), and endless shots of slivovice.
 

 

 

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