Pysanka: Traditional Easter Eggs

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In Germany, eggs decorate trees and bushes as Easter egg trees.

Easter egg decorating is one of the most fascinating expressions of Ukrainian folk art. The tradition of decorating eggs goes back to antiquity and is based on myths in which the egg was considered to be the source of life itself. Although there were several cultures that believed similar myths, the Ukraine is one of the few places where they still follow many ancient traditions connected with the egg.

Pysanky comes from the word pysaty (to write) and the designs and colors, which are drawn on the egg, are symbolic of ancient rituals and thought to have great power. They described it as writing because the designs were literally written or drawn onto the egg rather than painted.


A traditional Ukrainian pysanka with bird motifs

The distinctive and reoccurring patterns of the pysanky are geometric and often reference animals and plants. The most significant motif is the symbol of the sun, which may be interpreted as a broken cross, triangle, an eight-point rosette or a star. Other design elements include endless lines, flowers, leaves, the tree of life and animal figures. Christian influences introduced elements such as the cross, the church and fish.

Each region, village, and almost every family in Ukraine had its own special way of decorating the eggs and formulating the colours for dyeing the eggs. The dyes were prepared from dried plants, roots, bark, berries and insects (cochineal) and also had a symbolic meaning. Red symbolized the sun, life, joy; yellow stood for wealth and fertility; green was the symbol of spring and plant life. These customs were preserved faithfully and passed down from mother to daughter through generations.

A traditional Ukrainian pysanka with geometric designs Traditional pysanky from the Hutsul ethnographic region of Ukraine Perforated eggs

A stylus made out of a piece of thin brass was wrapped around a needle, forming a hollow cone. This was attached to a small stick with wire or horsehair. Sometimes a simple pin or nail inserted onto the end of a stick was used.

A variety of styluses, from traditional to modern for creating pysankas (decorated eggs)


If you are interested in learning more about these beautiful eggs – or you just enjoy the smile it brings to your face – you might like to check out Luba’s site called Pysanky info. In her own words:

“I have had a life long interest in and fascination with pysanky. I wrote my first one in Ukrainian school, when I was 7 years old, and became hooked. I have been learning about them and writing them ever since.”

Her site is definitely worth having a look at if for no other reason than IT’S EASTER!



In some countries like Sweden, Norway and Germany eggs are used as a table decoration hanging on a tree-branch Traditional painted easter eggs in Croatia. Picture taken in April 2006. Slunj, Croatia Easter eggs from the Czech Republic Embroidered Easter eggs from Ukraine Easter eggs from Russia Easter eggs from Romania Polish Knit Easter Eggs Easter eggs decorated with straw The world’s largest pysanka was erected in Vegreville, Alberta in 1974, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. A mix of traditional Ukrainian, diasporan and original pysanky (Ukrainian Easter eggs) The Tradition of Ukrainian Easter Egg Painting

In this video Artist Oksana Szulhan explains the meaning of the “pysanka” which is a Ukrainian Easter egg. © Copyright (c) Postmedia Network Inc.


 Happy Easter!