Pysanky: Ukrainian Easter Tradition

Pysanky, Pysanky: Ukrainian Easter Tradition, The Travel Bug Bite

You can’t celebrate Easter in Ukraine without pysanky, or decorated eggs! The word pysanka (singular) or pysanky (plural) comes from the word pysaty which means “to write” in Ukrainian. The traditional folk designs are not painted on, but rather written or inscribed with beeswax. Ukraine isn’t the only country that decorates Easter eggs using wax resist.

Different names for pysanky:

  • Belarusians – пісанка, pisanka
  • Bulgarians – писано яйце, pisano yaytse
  • Carpatho-Rusyns – писанкы, pysankŷ
  • Croats – pisanica
  • Czechs – kraslice
  • Hungarians – hímestojás
  • Lithuanians – margutis
  • Poles – pisanka
  • Romanians – ouă vopsiteîncondeiate or împistrite
  • Serbs – pisanica
  • Slovaks – kraslica
  • Slovenes – pirhipisanice, or remenke
  • Sorbs – jejka pisać

Not all Ukrainians celebrate Easter on the same day. This year, April 12th is the official Catholic date to celebrate. However, many Ukrainians are Orthodox and celebrate a week later. It is common not only to decorate pysanky on Easter but to also eat paska. Paska is traditional sweet Easter bread. You can find a delicious recipe for it here.

“This blessed food, including meats, is served for brunch on Easter Sunday, after a three hour Special Easter Sunday Liturgy, and the singing of the Easter Hymn “Khrystos Voskres” (Christ Is Risen).”

Suburban Grandma

Other Forms of Egg Decorating

Pysanka is often taken to mean any type of decorated egg, but it specifically refers to an egg created by the written-wax batik method and utilizing traditional folk motifs and designs. Several other types of decorated eggs are seen in Ukrainian tradition, and these vary throughout the regions of Ukraine.

Taken from Wikipedia:

  • Krashanky –from krasyty (красити), “to decorate”– are boiled eggs dyed a single color (with vegetable dyes, traditionally onion skin), and are blessed and eaten at Easter.
  • Pysanky –from pysaty (писати), “to write”– are raw eggs created with the wax-resist method (Resist dyeing). The designs are “written” in hot wax with a pinhead or a special stylus called a pysachok (писачок) or a kistka (кістка) which has a small funnel attached to hold a small amount of liquid wax.
  • Krapanky –from krapka (крапка), “a dot”– are raw eggs decorated using the wax-resist method, but with only dots as ornamentation (no symbols or other drawings). They are traditionally created by dripping molten wax from a beeswax candle onto an egg. They can be considered the simplest version of a pysanka, or a “proto-pysanka.”
  • Dryapanky –from dryapaty (дряпати), “to scratch”– are created by scratching the surface of a dyed egg to reveal the white shell below.
  • Malyovanky –from malyuvaty (малювати), “to paint”– are created by painting a design with a brush using oil or water color paints. It is sometimes used to refer to coloring (e.g. with a marker) on an egg.
  • Nakleyanky –from kleyaty (клеяти), “to glue on”– are created by glueing objects to the surface of an egg.
  • Travlenky –from travlenya (травлення), “etching” – are created by waxing eggs and then etching away the unwaxed areas.
  • Biserky –from biser (бісер), “beads”– are created by coating an egg with beeswax, and then embedding beads into the wax to create geometric designs.
  • Lystovky –from lystya (листя), “leaves”– are created by dyeing an egg to which small leaves have been attached.

Can You Eat Them All?

“All but the krashanky and lystovky are usually meant to be decorative (as opposed to edible), and the egg yolk and white are either allowed to dry up over time, or (in modern times) removed by blowing them out through a small hole in the egg.”


In recent years, new forms of egg decoration have been brought from abroad and become popularized in Ukraine. These include:

  • Rizblenky –from rizbyty (різьбити), “to cut, to carve”– are created by drilling the surface of an egg to create cut out areas.
  • Linyvky –from linyvyi (лінивий), “lazy”– a joking term to describe eggs decorated using stickers or shrink-wrap sleeves.
Pysanky, Pysanky: Ukrainian Easter Tradition, The Travel Bug Bite

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