Ukrainian Easter eggs
Easter eggs (EEs) are an integral part of Easter celebration, however, traditions associated with EEs are different in different cultures. This post discusses Ukrainian traditions related to EEs.
Many people know that Ukrainians decorate EEs with beautiful patterns (like the ones on the eggs in the picture above), but not many people know that there is also another type of Ukrainian EEs which are painted in one colour. Let’s look at differences between these two types of eggs. So, the first, patterned, type is called “pysanka” (plural: “pysankas, pysanky”) which comes from the Ukrainian word “писати” meaning “to write”. The reason why this type of eggs is called “pysanka” is because the patterns that are used to decorate eggs are very symbolic and it is almost like writing a letter on an egg. These patterned eggs are usually not eaten; their white and yolk are blown away (to prevent them from spoiling). Pysankas are stored or presented as souvenirs to relative and friends. Each year numerous master classes take place in Ukraine and all over the world to teach this art to all the people who want to learn how to create their own pysankas. Sometimes pysankas are made from unusual materials like precious stones or wood, although most often they are made from real “blown” eggs. The biggest pysanka in the world is located in Vegreville, AB, Canada (see first image in this post).
Image credit: made-in-ukraine, “Krashanky (…)” March 29, 2012.
The second type of EEs in Ukrainian culture is called “krashanka” (plural: “krashankas, krashanky”) which comes from the Ukrainian word “красити” meaning “to paint, to dye”. These eggs are dyed in one colour. An example of krashankas is in the picture above. The most popular colour for krashankas is orange because of the technology that is used to dye krashankas. In order to dye these eggs, Ukrainians collect onion husks and boil eggs together with the husks. The recipe for this type of eggs is the same as used for regular hard-boiled eggs, the only exception are the onion husks which are boiled together with the eggs. The amount of husks influences the saturation of the colour of krashankas (the more husks, the darker is the colour). Unlike pysankas (which are used as souvenirs), krashankas are blessed. shared, and eaten with family members, relatives, and friends.
There is a strong tradition associated with krashankas. On Easter Day, Ukrainian families (or families that share Ukrainian culture) go to Churches and bring their Easter baskets with them. Two key ingredients in their baskets are Easter bread and krashankas. After Easter baskets are blessed by a priest, they are taken home. The first things that is eaten is a krashanka. It is divided by the head of the family among the family members. Then, Easter bread is eaten followed by all other products, without any specific order. It should be mentioned that Easter is preceded by fasting and many Ukrainians observe it by praying more zealously, giving charity, and refraining from meat and other animal products. Therefore, Easter is also time when people finally break their fast.
Interestingly, the tradition of eating chocolate eggs is limited in Ukraine. Instead real hard boiled eggs are traditionally eaten. There are also no game that involve hiding EEs. Easter bread and eggs (in addition to anything else that people want to bring) are usually presented by guests to the hosting family during Easter celebration.
Easter is always celebrated on the same day of the week, Sunday. However, the date changes from year to year depending on the lunar calendar. Easter in Ukraine and in some other western countries does not usually coincide because Ukrainians observe the Julian calendar.