Ukrainian wax-resist Easter eggs, or pysanky, come from a long-standing tradition. They began as pagan symbols before Christianity was prevalent in Ukraine. Once Christianity spread (988), egg designs were adapted to suit the new religions themes. Triangular designs represent the Christian belief in the Holy Trinity. Fish designs are also popular. Other designs may be dependent on the recipient. Historically, completed eggs were traded between relatives and friends, like a valentine. Eventually these eggs were kept as decorations in Ukrainian homes and barns.
The eggs were traditionally dyed with products found in nature. Organic material like onions, horns, and seeds were used to make yellow, dark red, green, and black. The process starts with a raw egg, which will last forever if the shell remains intact. Then a kistka, or a stylus, is used to apply melted beeswax on the surface of the egg. The kistka is filled with wax and then held above a flame to melt. Lines are drawn around the circumference of the egg as a template on which to create a pattern. The egg is first dipped in the lightest dye, and then more wax designs are added over it. The process is repeated with each color, from lightest to darkest. Once the darkest color is applied (usually black), the egg is held in the flame of a candle. This heats the wax, which can then be wiped away. Finally the eggs are baked in the oven to set the color, and then covered in varnish or lacquer to make them shine.
These are certainly more work than dipping eggs into PAAS!
There are many legends concerning the origins and importance of the pysanky. They are believed to protect a home from fires, to help find demons, and to improve fertility. The are many legends concerning the Virgin Mary carrying eggs at the crucifixion. One legend says that the fate of the world depends on the continued practice of pysanky. If people should ever abandon the tradition and evil creature will encircle the world. (Eggs Beautiful: How to Make Ukrainian Easter Eggs by Johazna Luciow, Ann Kmit, and Loretta Luciow)
These eggs were created by Mary Ann Freeman and donated to the HSMC by Barbara Makar.