Easter is one of the most significant holidays of the year in the Orthodox tradition.
Orthodox Easter, which will be celebrated this year on April 20, marks the end of Lent and is a celebration of renewal.
Cathy Paroschy Harris is the artistic director for the Chaban Ukrainian Dance Group and works to spread awareness about Ukrainian culture, including a demonstration on how to make Ukrainian Easter eggs at the 55 Plus Centre on Saturday.
“The idea of Easter being one of the most significant holidays is that it gives us the belief that there is the opportunity for forgiveness, renewal and renewing your faith,” Paroschy Harris said.
One of the most distinctive and recognizable symbols of the holiday are the eggs, or pysanky, which are finely decorated in a variety of ways.
Paroschy Harris says the custom dates back to the pagan traditions.
Families would keep collect and keep pysanky would be kept in the home as a talisman or omen of good fortune.
“Each pattern on the egg would have a different meaning,” she said.
“Horns would represent a ram’s horns or some type of hoofed animal and it would mean strength. Lines that go all the way around the egg could mean eternity because they’re never ending, and if you do an egg like that and keep it in the house it’s wishing you eternal happiness and strength.”
Other patterns that have become common and adapted to Christianity include crosses and churches.
Recognizing the changes in how the eggs are developed can serve as a history lesson.
“We like to promote how the Easter egg has evolved,” Paroschy Harris said.
For her demonstrations, Paroschy Harris hollows out the eggs and removes the yolk to make them easier to work with.
Any part of the egg that is to be kept white is covered with beeswax and then the art becomes a layering process, progressing from lighter colours before finishing with darker.
The eggs may appear to be completely black before the beeswax is melted. However, once it is melted and wiped away, the colours of the dye are unveiled showing the elaborate patterns and design.
That moment of revelation where the final product first becomes visible is a magical moment.
“It is spiritual where something we didn’t understand before appears to us,” she said.
If properly taken care of, the pysanky can last a lifetime.
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