The intricate designs and vivid colours have enchanted Ukrainians and visitors for centuries. Over time, they’ve inspired egg-themed museums and collector coins, creative legends and wild superstitions. So, what exactly is up with Ukrainian Easter eggs? Here’s what you need to know.
It’s All in the Name
In Ukraine, these coloured eggs are called pysanky (plural of ‘pysanka’). The name derives from the Ukrainian word ‘pysaty’ (‘to write’), which is a reference to how they are made. Don’t make the mistake of saying they are “painted”. It’s an afront to those that take the time to do it right.
Written not painted!
The eggs take their vivid colours through dyes. An artist will apply the wax in their chosen design through a special stylus called a kistka and then roll the egg in dyes. The wax covers the colour, preventing it from taking on darker colours, so intricate designs take a lot of planning – and painstaking patience – to ‘write’ well. You start with the lightest colours first and move to darker hues, applying a new coat of wax after each round of dye.
But why eggs?
Like many of Ukraine’s other folk traditions, you can date this back to the pagans. The story goes that eggs represent rebirth and were chosen to celebrate the coming of spring, or the rebirth of land after winter. Christians liked the idea and kept the tradition to mark the rebirth of Christ through his resurrection. The Soviets couldn’t crush the tradition and it’s alive and well today.
Do they have any special significance?
Ukrainians take their pysanky to the church on Easter to get blessed, alongside other foods in a specially-prepared Easter basket. Blessed eggs are thought to ward off demons, but there are plenty more entertaining egg-related superstitions. Hutsuls believe that pysanky foretell the coming of the apocalypse. Once the tradition is lost, the story goes, so too is the world. Ladies should also be careful of the eggs they give their special guys. An egg with no designs at the top or bottom could make their beau lose their hair!
Where can I find them?
In Kyiv, there is usually a great exhibition of pysanky held on Sofiivska Plosha, but due to the reconstruction happening there at the moment, they have opted to cancel this year’s display only to have it return in 2020. But don’t worry – at Easter, you’ll have no problems finding pysanky! And for those looking to explore a bit more, head out to Kolomyia in western Ukraine to check out the world’s only pysyanky museum. The museum itself is in the shape of an egg!
I wanna try!
Writing pysanky for the first time can be quite tricky – even if you find a decent tutorial online. It’s best to ask your Ukrainian friends if they plan to do it this year and tag along with them. Or, if you’re so inclined, you can find pysanky-writing workshops across the country. Just ask your trusted tour group. Be sure to check out some designs online – or at one of the pysanky exhibitions – before you take your turn at keeping this wonderful Ukrainian tradition thriving. You never know, the fate of the world could depend on it!
This is the only museum in the world dedicated to the pysanka, which is not only in the shape of an egg, but has been ‘written’ as one both inside and out! Standing at 14 m in height and 10 m in diametre, it is the largest pysanka in the world – one in Vegreville, Canada comes in at a close second.
The museum boasts a collection of 10 000 eggs from nearly every oblast in Ukraine as well as designs from other countries.
Easter is waiting!
Pirohiv Museum (Pirohiv)
Persecution of Death
(Mykhaila Dontsya 2)
All Ukrainian catholic and orthodox churches across the country will be celebrating. Be sure to put together your basket and head down to be blessed.
While pysanky are the most visible symbol of Ukrainian Paska, there is also pashka, a sweet bread forbidden during the fast of Great Lent. Thinking about where to sample some? We’ve got you covered with recommendations on some venues serving up delicious Easter cakes and pastry. Don’t forget to grab some before they’re all gone!
Make My Cake Kyiv
⎯ 10.00 – 21.00
Visit and try delicious paskhas in this cosy café situated here in Kyiv but with Odesa at its heart.
+380 50 604 2022
Baker Street Bakery Starovokzalna 13
⎯ 9.00 – 18.00
Buy traditional Easter cakes at Station Cakes & Coffee, the coffee shop adjoining Baker Street Bakery.
+380 67 409 7277
⎯ 8.00 – 22.00
Choose your best paskha here!
+380 44 390 7962
Cookietone Concept Bakery
Ivana Franka 25/40 and Drahomyrova 12
⎯ 8.00 – 21.00
The eagerly-awaited Easter menu has been released and offers the chance to order some appetising baked goods.
+380 68 360 6160
+380 96 197 8719 (Drahomyrova 12)
Shota Rustaveli 16
⎯ 8.00 – 23.00
Amazing as always, their cakes are works of art!
+380 44 237 0907