The art of egg decorating

EDMONDS — For many Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox Christians, decorating eggs is an important part of celebrating Easter.

A Ukrainian legend has it that, as long as this tradition is alive, good will prevail over evil in the world, said Larissa Chuprina, who is teaching a class in Edmonds today to pass on the ancient art of pysanky.

Chuprina lives in Edmonds and teaches English for foreigners at Seattle University and linguistics at City University. She is originally from Kharkiv, Ukraine.

“I learned this tradition in the United States because in Ukraine I was intimidated,” Chuprina said. “The eggs are so intricate and beautiful, I didn’t believe I could do it myself.”

But she missed the art. She ordered a special kit from a magazine for Canadian and American Ukrainians and learned to make pysanky in 1997.

She has been decorating eggs at least once a year for Easter. In ancient times, pysanky were made for all major holidays and important events. The word comes from the Ukrainian verb “to write.”

Indeed, each egg carries a message because colors and ornaments have symbolic meanings. Green means growth, and yellow means youth. Darker, earthy colors typically are used on pysanky intended for older people. Flower and tree motifs symbolize growth. Deer and cattle mean prosperity.

Beeswax is used to draw patterns on the egg, which is then dipped into a series of dyes, from lighter to darker colors. The darker color covers all previous dyes except where they had been protected by a layer of wax. Pysanky are made from smooth, white raw eggs. Chuprina often will buy five cartons of eggs to find enough suitable for one box of pysanky.

Dyeing boiled eggs different colors is another traditional way to decorate eggs. Even though it’s now part of the Easter celebration, the art predates Christianity by thousands of years, Chuprina said.

“The egg is an icon of the universe because it doesn’t have a beginning or an end,” she said.

In ancient times, people put pysanky on the ground for a good harvest and brought them along for good luck on a long journey. Now, people often exchange them as tokens of friendship. It’s also believed that a house with a bowl full of pysanky won’t burn or be broken into.

Katya Yefimova: 425-339-3452; kyefimova@heraldnet.com.

Class

The Ukrainian egg decorating class is from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. today at Edmonds Parks and Recreation, 700 Main St. It costs $25, plus a $10 cash fee for supplies. To see if spots are still available, call 425-771-0230.

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