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"Ukraine's Cherished Tradition: The Gifting of a Pysanka" by Peter Voitsekhovsky

Hand-decorated Easter eggs are known to several different ethnic cultures of the world, but the Ukrainian tradition of pysanky is particularly prominent.

Archeologists have discovered ceramic pysanky in Ukraine dating back to 1300 B.C. In the folk life of Ukrainian people, pysanky are attributed talismanic powers. Receipt of a pysanka is not only a token of friendship or esteem, but it also brings with it protection from harm. With the acceptance of Christianity in 988 A.D., the pysanka became a part of the Easter ritual. It came to symbolize the rebirth of man, as represented by the Resurrection. Eventually, the art of pysanky grew into a deeply cherished Ukrainian cultural tradition.

The pysanka is one of just a few cultural icons of Ukraine that Russia has not tried to claim for itself: the pysanka was always identified as Ukrainian. The Communist government viewed the pysanka tradition as a “harmful peasant cult” and tried to suppress it. For Ukraine, the pysanka might be one of the greatest antidotes of all time against the Kremlin's propaganda. This art tradition survived and regained glory, in part, owing to efforts of the Ukrainian community worldwide. In 1988, Nadia K. McConnell, who was in charge of government relations in the National Committee for the Commemoration of the Millennium of Christianity in Ukraine, organized an exhibit of 1000 pysankas in the Senate Russell Building of the U.S. Congress. [link to article published in 2018] This exhibit came to celebrate the pysanka as a symbol of Ukraine’s rebirth and spiritual renewal.

There are over a hundred of meaningful symbols used in pysanka ornaments. They denote wishes of family well-being, prosperity, good harvest, love, kindness, good health, protection from disease and evil. For example:

You can find out more about the language and the rituals of pysanky here: