‘Pysanka’ an Easter egg tradition

PUHI – “Let’s put some in the Easter basket with the other eggs,” joked Frank DeGennaro, a resident at the Regency at Puakea Wednesday. “If you drop them, watch out,” he laughed.

DeGennaro had just finished creating one of the Ukrainian Easter eggs under the direction of Ron Harashko, and was waiting for the other residents to finish their creations at the special demonstration.

DeGennaro said the Ukrainian Easter creation uses uncooked eggs, unlike the American version where hardboiled eggs are used.

“Keep them in a cool, dry place,” Harashko said. “And, in about six months, they’ll be all dried out.”

Harashko said he learned how to do the Ukrainian eggs while watching his father back in the Ukraine.

“It’s a big thing. My dad and grandfather would exchange eggs at Easter. That was part of the tradition of Easter, and the eggs were gifts,” he explained. “Each of the eggs were done in the creator’s own style which made them unique.”

Since then, Harashko said he developed his own style, and went one step further. He found that he could create simple tools that could be used in the creation process.

Basically, you start with the lighter colors and work towards the darker colors, Harashko said. “It’s a layering process. At each level, you add beeswax, and where you wax, the previous color is retained.”

The entire process is completed when all the beeswax is removed, and a final coat of oil is applied to bring out the brilliant finish of the dyes.

To remove the beeswax, Harashko said the completed eggs are placed in an oven heated to about 350 degrees for no more than two minutes. Once that stage is done, all that remains is to wipe down the eggs with a cloth or napkin dampened with vegetable oil.

Harashko explained that the colors have their own symbolism in the Ukraine. The lighter colors of yellow and orange stand for the harvest, and are complemented with symbols for sickles.

The brighter colors represent “spring,” and the darker colors represent “night.”

Black, used as the ultimate color, represents the falling of night and finality.

Residents noted that for Wednesday’s demonstration, the dyes used were from Russia, and keep very well.

Yoshie Nishio, another resident, was working on her own intricate pattern. Nishio still has eggs she created two years ago.

“This is fun, and the residents look forward to this,” Harashko said. “Look at how many they made in an hour.”

“Even my husband George made one,” Gladys Okada said, as she watched Nishio continue to add layers to her creation.

Once patience, skill, a steady hand, millennia of tradition, and time are applied to the plain raw egg, the result is a “pysanka,” or Ukrainian Easter Egg. This information comes from an article that appeared in “The Ukrainian Weekly” in 2000, penned by Orysia Paszczak Tracz.

There are Ukrainian legends that place the egg as the embryo of the earth and the universe. Indian, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Greek, Roman, Polynesian, Scandinavian, Slavic, and other legends have the egg as the central point of creation.

That led to the egg symbolizing the sun, its rebirth, and nature’s rebirth.

In prehistoric times, the people inhabiting the territory of the Ukraine believed in the sun, and due to its agricultural society, its god was the sun, Dazhboh (the god who gives).

Their calendar year revolved around the cult of the sun, its departures and returns. Their most important festivals centered around the spring and autumnal equinoxes, and the summer and winter solstices.

The Ukrainian word for Easter is Velykden, or “Great Day” when the spring equinox celebrated the sun’s return.

The pysanka was decorated with ornaments symbolizing the life-giving force of the sun, rein-forcing the power of what was within the shell. The egg itself, and the designs written on it were good and people believed they could bring good fortune and turn away evil.

During Velykden, pysanka were exchanged among family and friends, and depending on its ornament and colors, the pysanka protected people from various illnesses and safeguarded the house and other buildings from lightning.

Today, Harashko said, he loves to work with art and children, but so far, has only been invited by the Regency to do his demonstrations on his pysanka.

“My boss even gave me the day off so I could do this,” Harashko, a fish buyer for Koa Trading said. “The boss said, ‘There are some things you just have to do.”

After offering residents his pysanky creations, Harashko packed the remainder in an egg carton noting, “I’m going to share these with hospital patients.”

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