According to scholars, the Ukrainian art of decorating Easter eggs or pysanky dates back to the first century A.D.
The word pysanka comes from pysaty which means “to write." Eggs are decorated by writing with hot beeswax and dipping the egg in a series of dye baths.
The colors of pysanky have specific meaning. For example, red is used to show happiness in life, orange signifies strength and endurance and blue represents good health. Historically, dyes were made from dried plants, roots, berries and bark.
The motifs and designs also have meaning. Ladders represent prosperity or prayer. Swirls represent protection. Hens symbolize fertility and the fulfillment of wishes. Fish, a symbol of Christianity, suggests abundance and baptism.
Pysanky are often made to be given to family members and are kept as treasured gifts for generations.
The most popular pysanka designs are geometric figures. Pysanky are made from raw eggs and are not meant to be eaten. Alternatively, eggs are "blown out" prior to decorating.
Traditionally, pysanky were made by the women in the family during the last week of Lent.
The world's largest pysanka stands in Vegreville, Alberta. The egg is 31 feet long and three and a half stories high.