Of course, Ukrainians do not have a monopoly on egg decorating. However, the decorated eggs from this region are highly collectible.
Ukrainian Easter eggs are called pysanka, from the verb pysaty, meaning “to write”. Ancient examples of pysanka have not survived, due to the delicate nature of the eggshells. However ceramic “eggs” decorated with patterns and images have been found in burial sites and at archeological digs.
The Symbolic Nature of Pysanka
Pictures of nature, such as plants, herbs, animals, and insects, are often found in a pysanka design. Christian symbolism, such as the cross, is also common. Even the egg itself is symbolic: with its unending surface, it represents eternal life.
In earlier times, Ukrainian Easter eggs were considered to be much more than decorative objects or crafts for the holidays. It was thought they had special powers that warded off evil, and increased fertility. It was also believed that pysanka could ensure a good harvests.
Traditionally, it was women who decorated eggs using 'homemade' colors. Onion skins produced a brown or golden dye. Beets gave a red color, and tree bark or herbs provided yellows.
The most famous type of Easter egg in the Ukraine are those made with the wax-resist method. This method requires the use of beeswax and a special stylus. Sometimes called a kistka. it is used to draw a wax pattern onto the egg. When the egg is submerged in a dye bath, the areas covered by wax do not absorb the colour. The wax is then melted off to reveal the design.
As many Ukrainian egg artists are maintaining ties with tradition and imitating their ancestors, pysanka from Ukraine have achieved the status of art. Modern technologies, such as manufactured dye and electronic kistkas, have enabled artists to create more colourful and precise designs. An entire industry has developed around the production and sales of pysanka equipment and accessories.