While fluffy bunnies, candy chicks and painted eggs signify Easter for some Americans, the holiday is marked by Pysanky for Ukrainians.
Pysanky are decoratively painted Easter eggs from a tradition that is said to go back 2,000 years.
A group of Red Hatters, The Duwamish Divas, tried their hands at Pysanky in a recent Tukwila Community Center class.
The tradition dates back to the time before Christ, when people supposedly decorated eggs, believing that powers were embodied in them.
This is according to Luba Perchyshyn’s Ukrainian Easter Egg Kit, the one that Sheri McConnaughey uses to instruct the community center class.
Pysanky marks the coming of spring. With the arrival of Christianity, Pysanky symbolized goodness prevailing over evil.
The intricately painted eggs are not intended to be eaten. They are raw eggs intended to be saved; they take five to seven years dry out.
McConnaughey has been painting the eggs in this style off and on for more than 20 years.
“It’s just one of those things you think about once in awhile and you bring it back; it’s just kind of fun,” she said.
She has Norwegian heritage and learned from her mom’s German neighbors in the 1980s.
She has taught the Ukrainian egg class at Tukwila Community Center several times, hoping to attract some of the city’s large Ukrainian community. So far, there’s been no one of that culture in her class.
In the March 8 class the Duwamish Divas got to work.
“She should have given us wine, then we would have been more steady,” said Shirley Wendt, trying to draw on her egg using a kistaka.
The kistaka is one of the tools needed for Pysanky, along with beeswax, a candle, non-edible chemical dyes, oil-free hands and raw white eggs.
McConnaughey describes the process as kind of like batik.
First, one starts with a white egg. Then wax is applied to the areas that are to stay white. Then the egg is dyed from lightest color to darkest, waxing over each color as you continue to dye it darker.
It takes patience to use the kistaka, as many of the Divas found out.
Diane Buck called the technique “absolutely wonderful.”
“My sister’s very good at it and I have several of her eggs in my china closet,” Buck said. “Now I appreciate it a lot more; it’s hard.”
The women spent the morning and afternoon drawing and dyeing their eggs, then it was off to the oven to melt off the wax.
And finally they were presented with beautifully patterned eggs.
As part of Ukrainian tradition, the eggs are given to relatives and friends as a talisman, signifying the “Rebirth of Man.”
For Ukrainians the Krashanka, or solid colored hard-cooked eggs, are blessed along with the Pysanky on Easter Saturday. The hard-cooked eggs are the first food eaten by Ukrainians after sunrise mass on Easter.