The egg, symbolizing the rebirth of nature, is known to have been used in the early pre-Christian ceremonies during the celebration of the spring festival. With the advent of Christianity this symbolism was interpreted to mean man’s rebirth. The egg was thus given a new meaning and was incorporated into the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ.
There are many legends centered around psyanky. One such legend is that, as long as Easter eggs are decorated, good will prevail over evil.
Pysanky play an important part in traditional Ukrainian Easter customs. The eggs are placed in the Easter basket which is taken to be blessed during the Easter Sunday church service. After the eggs have been blessed they are believed to contain talismanic powers. The eggs are exchanged with friends, presented as gifts, and used as decorations year round.
There are various types of Easter eggs, the two most widely known are the ‘pysanky’ and ‘krashanky’. The word ‘pysanka’ (singular) is derived from the world ‘pysaty’ which meant ‘to write’; ‘pysanky’ being the plural form. ‘Krashanky’ are hard cooked – solid colored eggs and, unlike the pysanky, these are meant to be eaten. Krashanka is derived from the word ‘kraska’ meaning ‘colour’. These eggs are also placed in the Easter basket to be blessed, and are traditionally the first food eaten, to break the fast, following Lent.
The many different patterns used on the eggs have been handed down from generation to generation. The various regions of Ukraine have patterns particular to that region. However, there are patterns which are common to many regions. In decoration ‘pysanka’ one should keep in mind the symbolic meaning of the motifs being used. The motifs used are generally classified in three categories, animal, plant and geometric.