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Easter Eggs (Pirhi)

Slovenian folk art phenomenon

Easter eggs - pirhi - are coloured and decorated hard-boiled eggs or blown-out shells. They are known in different regions of Slovenia also as pisanice, pisanke, remenci or remenke and are regarded amongst the most beautifully decorated in Europe.

pirhi.gif (33239 bytes)Traditionally eggs have been an essential part of Slovenian Easter celebrations. They are taken in a basket (jerbas) of traditional Easter foods to church on Easter Saturday to be blessed and later set out on the table for the Easter meal. Easter eggs were given as gifts from one person to another, distributed as part of the Easter celebration and used in traditional Easter egg games.

The Slovenian historian J.V. Valvasor describes the custom in his work The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola (1689). An earlier church record, dated 1393, from the Dominican monastery at Radlje in Slovenia, reports that on Easter Saturday eggs were distributed to all the nuns of the order.
The egg itself is an ancient symbol of life and fertility. It is an Indo-european symbol of spring, adopted later as a symbol of Christ's resurrection and found wherever Christianity is practised. Coloured eggs are in evidence already in ancient China and Egypt. In ancient Persia, the spring holiday was known as "holiday of the red egg". Egg-shells have been found in prehistoric graves; painted goose eggs were placed with the deceased in the grave by the Romans.

In Slovenia there is a rich variety of design and method of decoration of Easter eggs, each region having developed its own style. In Bela Krajina and Prekmurje the eggs are characterised by geometric and stylised designs. They are decorated with lines (straight, broken, undulating, zig-zag), crosses, spirals, triangles, hearts, circles, dots and the sun. Christian symbols are incorporated; the monograms of Mary (M) and Christ (HIS, ISUS HRISTI SALVATOR). In the western regions of Slovenia, Gorenjska and Primorska, the eggs are decorated with naturalistic forms: clover, daisies, grapes, birds, as well as monstrances. Inscriptions are a more recent phenomenon. They may include: Easter greetings, such as "Vesela Aleluja", sayings, verses, and love messages from girls to boys, such as "Iz srca te ljubim, ti pisanko dam".

Nowadays men and women continue the tradition of egg decoration, particularly in Bela Krajina and Prekmurje. These traditional Easter eggs are greatly valued and exhibited as products of Slovenian folk-art. There is great interest in reviving this traditional art. Children are encouraged to learn the techniques of egg decoration and considerable creativity and excitement is generated during the weeks preceding Easter holiday.

From Niko Kuret, Prazniccno leto Slovencev (Ljubljana 1989)

Dussica Kunaver, Pisanica rdecca (Radovljica 1991)