10+ Amazing Pysanky (Ukrainian) Easter Egg Designs
Why settle for foil wrapped chocolate-flavoured candies when you can decorate your Easter feast with works of art? Pysanky (pronounced “pih-sahn-KIH” (with the singular “PIH-sahn-kah”) or traditional Ukrainian Easter eggs, add artistic flair and a sense of tradition as friends and family gather around to celebrate spring and fresh beginnings.
Ukrainian Easter vs. North American Easter
The North American Easter bunny, egg hunts, and candy are not part of an Orthodox Easter celebration. The Ukrainian celebration is a rich mix of pagan and Christian practices with many unique traditions. It represents the arrival of spring, as well as the rise of Christ; it’s a time of renewal and good fortune.
Ukrainian Easter includes:
- Observing a strict fast for Lent and avoiding meat and dairy
- Blessing pussy willow twigs in lieu of palm branches
- Dying and writing pysanky
- Baking Paska bread
- Preparing foods for the Easter breakfast basket
After the fast, the Easter basket is highly anticipated on Easter Sunday morning. It’s filled with delicacies like sausage, cheese, lard, ham, and other favourite foods.
The community gathers at the church and the baskets are spread out on the lawn where a priest can bless the breakfast with holy water. These blessed baskets symbolize prosperity and good health.
The breakfast feast is followed with festive celebrations; pysanky are given with great affection, and are full of symbolic meaning. Want to make your own pysanky? Try these step-by-step instructions.
There are several different designs an artist might use; some are from the neolithic era, some are traditional Christian, and some are modern interpretations of those traditional motifs. See how many you can recognize.
Geometric: Some of the most popular motifs are geometric, such as stars, crosses, hearts, triangles, spirals, dots, and curls.
Man-Made: The second most common group of motifs represent objects made by man. As Ukraine has a highly agricultural society, these designs are talismans for the success of field and farm. You might spot ladders, nets, baskets, rakes, windmills, axes, shovels, and saws.
Phytomorphic: The world of nature is depicted through stylized trees, plants, fruit, flowers, and leaves. Look for the tree of life, branches, the horsetail plant, pussy willows, berries, and grapes.
Zoomorphic: Animals depicted on pysanky are believed to influence the offspring of livestock. Animals might be shown whole or in parts, like ram horns. Bear claws, birds, fish, insects, and snakes are a few of the many creatures you might find on an egg.
Christian or Religious: As Christianity was adopted as the state religion, the symbolism on the eggs changed. Instead of relating to nature’s rebirth, it highlighted the rebirth of man, a symbol of Christ rising from his tomb. Churches, crosses, and the eye of God represent Christianity, and dots are said to be the tears of Virgin Mary.
Teresa Mihalko Harbert, Eggs by Teresa
Teresa embraced her Ukrainian culture and heritage as an adult, incorporating the straight lines and forms of quilting and cross-stitch. She taught herself with a mail-order kit of wax and dyes.
Theresa Somerset, Precision Art Studio
Teresa learned to make psyanky through books and other artisans in the field. She finds her pysanky have become more intense and delicate with experience and experimentation.
In this example, Lorrie has used a non-traditional wheat motif, which is more popular in diasporan pysanky. She earned the distinction of Master of Egg Art from the International Egg Art Guild.
Irina was inspired as a child by watching a neighbour use a simple stick, some hot beeswax, and tailor pins to create beautiful Easter eggs. Now, her eggs are part of the collection of the Ethonographic Museum in Ochla.
Nancy’s creates Ukrainian pysanky as a spiritual practice. On her website, she explains how the pysanky’s goal is to “increase awareness of God’s omnipresent goodness.” You can certainly sense the devotion and affirmations in her designs, and even see the pussy willow design bursting forward to bless others.
Get Ready for Easter
Easter in a Ukrainian home just isn’t complete without a pysanka or two to celebrate fresh beginnings. Once you’ve found your egg inspiration, don’t forget about the rest of the preparations! If you are creating an Easter breakfast basket for blessings this year, Stawnichy offers the following special products:
- Paska bread (with or without raisins)
- Poppy rolls
- Pickled herrings
- Baby rings of sausage
- Beet horseradish relish
- Butter lambs
- Birdies (sweet bread shaped like a bird)
Stock up at the Mundare Sausage House in Edmonton or at our location in Mundare itself. If you want someone else to do the cooking this upcoming week, we welcome you Monday to Saturday at Uncle Ed’s Ukrainian Restaurant.
Take the time to reflect on the season of new beginnings and all the potential that comes with spring. Happy Easter from the Stawnichy family to yours!