What is Pysanka? It is a technique to decorate Easter eggs according to the Ukrainian tradition. This technique takes a lot of time, patience and...creativity. Although you can use specific traditional patterns, you can also use some creativity to display various designs of your choice.
The original intention behind this tradition was to send good wishes to family and friends when handing the eggs out as gifts. It is a bit similar to a card in which you've written best wishes, but the eggs were an easier way to express those wishes throughout the years when writing was not an acquired skill by all. At home, these eggs were meant to attract specific blessings (such as having a good crop, benefiting from good health, etc). How do you make Ukrainian Easter eggs? Let's see...
- Room temperature is dye-friendly! Select the eggs of your choice. The bigger, the better, since the larger surface will allow you more room for your creative displays. White eggs are usually the best choice, as the colors of the dyes will come out brighter and will not be darker or different in appearance than the expected outcome. Leave these eggs out at the room temperature, because cold eggs tend to have some condensation at first, which could interfere with the adherence of the wax on its surface.
- Purchase a Pysanka kit! These kits are quite inexpensive and contain all the regular colors of dye, the wax, a candle and the applicator. They also contain graphics of some traditional designs and their meanings as suggestions to be used if creativity eludes you.
- Preparation of the eggs. Depending on who is using the Pysanka to make Ukrainian Easter eggs, there are three options to prepare the eggs.
- The first one is the traditional way to do it. According to the Ukrainian faith, Easter is the celebration of life so in respect of this belief, the egg is left intact, which means full and uncooked. The inside will eventual dehydrate as the liquid will evaporate leaving a dried out yolk.
- Some people prefer the idea of emptying out the egg by poking two tiny holes at each extremity and suctioning the content out. This may sound neater, but it also makes the eggs more fragile to handle.
- The third method is used with young children. You boil it. It is less likely to crack this way. The choice is yours!
- Preparation of the dyes! Follow the instructions to prepare the dyes. Pour each color of dye in a separate container. It is best to use labeled plastic disposable containers, such as old margarine containers. Label them either with a number or the name of the color. This way, you will avoid making mistakes. Place the lighter colors at the beginning of the row as they will be the first ones to be used. After all, darker colors can adhere to lighter ones without a negative result, but lighter colors will not appear through darker colors. For example, yellow should be used before blue.
- Final preparations. Use an old tablecloth or surface that will not be stained easily or won't matter to you if it does. Use a humid cloth as you will need it to remove any smoke stain from the candle or excess of molten wax. And finally, get a lighter or some matches to light up the candle. Do not let a child handle these dangerous items.
- Look for some ideas of traditional designs if you lack ideas. You can find some suggestions drawn on sheets included in the Pysanka kit.
- Light up the candle, heat up the metal tip of the applicator against the flame, dip it into the wax and apply it to the eggs. It will take time and patience but the results will amaze you. Create various designs that you intend to be displayed in white. The applied wax will prevent the designs from being stained by other dyes.
- Time to dye your egg! Use a soup spoon to gently deposit the egg into the first dye, which is yellow. Leave it in the dye for 30 seconds or up to 1 minute. Then gently remove it and use an old towel or some paper towels to remove the excess dye.
- Repeat the waxing step. Keep in mind that these new waxed designs will remain yellow.
- Repeat the dyeing step. Repeat this process until you used all desired colors of dye and have created all of your intended patterns using the wax.
- The final step is also the toughest one! Once the egg has been waxed, dyed and dried for the last time, it is time to remove the wax. It is the toughest and most delicate part of the Pysanka procedure; it needs to be done slowly, without leaving the egg too long against the flame. Also when removing the wax with a humid cloth, you must not use pressure, as it would crack the egg.
Briefly put a waxed part of the egg against the flame, and then gently wipe off the molten wax. You will now see these creative designs appear before your eyes. Repeat this step as needed.
As a parent, you will soon discover that such an activity can be enjoyed by the whole family. This is not only educational but it also allows your children to express their creativity. It will be fun as well as educational, all wrapped into one activity. Try it and have fun! Soon, it will become one of your family's traditions!