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Pysanka: An Ancient Ukrainian Tradition

11. April 2011 by Christy 0 Comments

As Easter draws near, many Ukrainian women will begin crafting beautiful pysanka, a tradition that has existed in Ukraine for thousands of years. But just what is a pysanka?

 

Simply put, a pysanka is a Ukrainian Easter egg decorated using a wax-resistant method and embellished with traditional Ukrainian folk designs (psanky are those without traditional designs). Though Ukrainians decorate many different types of eggs, the pysanka holds special significance in Ukrainian culture.


As egg shells are fragile, no one is quite sure when the art of pysanka first developed. However, many believe the Ukrainian tradition dates back to ancient times. Unfortunately, pysanka were banished and nearly forgotten in Ukraine during the Soviet era. However, Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 brought a revival of this ancient art.


Many superstitions surround the pysanka. The colorful eggs were thought to protect households from evil spirits, catastrophe, lightning, fires, and other disasters, while pysanka decorated with a spiral design reportedly had the power to trap demons. In addition, pysanka had to be disposed of properly, lest a witch get her hands on one, and the cloths used to dry the decorated eggs were thought to have special healing powers. Though most of these superstitions have been forgotten, the color and design of the pysanka still hold great significance.


Pysanka are traditionally made during Holy Week and every region, village, and family has its own method of decorating eggs. Once the pysanka are finished, Ukrainians present the beautiful eggs to friends and family, taking great care to select a decorated egg that matches the character of the recipient.


This year, Holy Week begins on Sunday, April 17 and women around Ukraine will begin creating beautiful pysanka. Why not ask your special lady about this unique Ukrainian tradition? Who knows, maybe one day she’ll craft a special pysanka just for you!


Click here for an in-depth guide on to how to make your own pysanka!