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The Pysanky are Coming

Learn how to make those incredible Ukrainian Easter eggs.

Posted: March 4, 2008 1:58 p.m.
Updated: May 5, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Different designs of pysanky are from different regions of the Ukraine. Symbols include oak leaves, birds, stars, sunflowers, wolves' teeth, horses, deer and braids.

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A traditional Ukrainian custom at Easter is exchanging highly ornamental Easter eggs, called "pysanky" (from the Ukrainian word "pysaty," which means to write). The Ukrainians bring their pysanky and other traditional food delicacies in baskets to church for blessing and thanksgiving prayers. Then these baskets are exchanged with family and friends during festive banquets - with the customary greeting "Christ is risen."

Originally, pysanky were associated with mythical and religious beliefs of pagan times but, with the coming of Christianity, they took on a new meaning of rebirth and life. Custom dictates that each year a fresh batch of pysanky be made.

Symbolic patterns now give way to intricate embroidery-style patterns and those of flowers.

On Sunday, March 9, there will be a free class on how to make pysanky held from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. in Spurling Hall at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Newhall (24901 Orchard Village Rd., across from Ralphs grocery store). The class is open to all, though the number of participants is limited. All you need to bring is a dozen raw, room-temperature eggs. The stylus, dyes, designs and personal instruction will be provided by Olga Kaczmar and Barbara Wampole.

"Last year's class was successful; everyone enjoyed themselves and made delightful creations. Therefore we are going to do it again," said Kaczmar.

While Kaczmar comes by her pysanky skills through her Ukrainian heritage, Wampole said she first became interested in the technique in the early 1970s in New York, while she was attending college. As it turned out, there was a craft store on her street that promoted the process. "I took formal lessons in the 1990s...and I've been doing it ever since," Wampole said. "I think it's an Earth-centered tradition. It cultivates respect for the Earth."

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