I’m Ukrainian…and even if you don’t know anything about that amazing country, you probably can instantly recognize Ukrainian Easter eggs! They’re called pysanky, and each Easter my mom takes one of our baskets of pysanky and puts it in our entryway for everyone to see. They’re colorful, bright, and kind of look like little magical objects that could be found in a fairy tale. Traditionally, pysanky are decorated with Ukrainian folk designs, but my brother and I have drawn lots of things on them over the years (my favorite was his kung fu dragon in 2005 haha). Traditionally they are made the week before Easter (the last week of Lent).
Okay. So here’s a super brief history of these Easter eggs:
According to history books, pysanky originated in ancient times when Ukrainians worshiped a sun god called Dazhboh. In the springtime, eggs were decorated with symbols of nature, such as wheat or the sun (which makes sense because eggs represent life and spring is a renewal of life). When Christianity was introduced, the eggs changed to symbolize the renewal of man instead of nature. But many of the pagan decorative symbols remained. When the Soviet Union occupied the country, pysanky were banned…but the tradition survived in the Americas. Since then, Ukraine has gained independence and Ukrainian Easter eggs are now a celebrated art form!
There is a lot more history to pysanky, but that’s the jist of it.
Anyway! Growing up, I had no idea that non-Ukrainian kids didn’t decorate their eggs like this – it was all I knew. We’d break out the kistka, wax, and dyes (sometimes homemade) and scribble traditional designs onto the eggs. It was always fun…even though it’s kind of frustrating for an impatient little kid haha. They’re made by “doodling” on the eggshell with melted wax with a tool called a kistka. Popular designs include birds, animals, wheat, sun, fruit, flowers, and religious icons. My favorite egg is an antique wooden one that my grandma gave me from her collection. It’s covered in geometric patterns and is totally awesome. I keep it out all year in my room, propped up by an organic rock found on the beach in front of our house. Pysanky are pieces of art!
So that’s one of my Easter traditions! What do you guys do for Easter?