Easter in Dubrovnik is perhaps one of the most joyful times to visit the Pearl of the Adriatic. It is a time of celebration, family, joy and excellent food, and a time with plenty of traditions. But while kids in many other countries might be dreaming of chocolate Easter eggs, the situation is rather different – and a lot healthier! - in the Dubrovnik region. For while the emphasis is also on eggs as part of the festivities, it has little to do with chocolate.
One of the quaintest Easter traditions has been passed down from generation to generation, and it features hand-painted Easter eggs lovingly prepared in the kitchens of local homes by mothers, daughters, and grandmothers. The aesthetic beauty of the decorated eggs is a source of pride as well as a very homely addition to the Easter experience.
These Easter eggs, or 'pengana jaja', serve more as ornaments and often contain written messages and traditional greetings. It is common to exchange them as gifts, where hidden feelings can be expressed through the messages on the outer shell. As the Dubrovnik Tourist Board explains, decorating the eggs is a delicate process, using very traditional methods and tools:
Raw eggs are painted using a needle with a protruding tip that is mounted onto a piece of wood, most often laurel. This tool, called a ˝penica˝, is then dipped into melted beeswax and is used to write the message. In the old days when the old farmhouse kitchens were still in widespread use, women would hold a bowl with ashes and embers in their lap, where the beeswax would dissolve at a constant high temperature. Today, the bowls with the beeswax are kept on a stove or on a special stand with a small candle that melts the wax and makes the work easier.
Decorated eggs are cooked in red onion skins to attain rich brown color so they can be eaten, or served as an excellent souvenir and memory of this very special time of year in Dubrovnik. And if you have a hidden message for a friend or loved one, why not express it in this unique Dubrovnik manner?
It is common to find the decorated eggs in the traditional Dubrovnik Easter baskets, where they are often taken to church and blessed, before being eaten for an Easter breakfast or lunch. Typically, the basket contains fresh cheese, spring onions, salt, a traditional Easter sweet bread called 'pinca' – all fresh and wholesome products, which contribute to the joyful time of Easter.
Dubrovnik's restaurants also enter the Easter spirit, and there are many exquisite local delicacies to be enjoyed, as traditional Easter brunches find their way onto the menu. And with traditional food, so too traditional music, as the Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra performs the 'Dubrovnik Musical Spring.'
And not a chocolate Easter egg in sight!