Pysanky and Prayer: US Churches Use Ukrainian Easter Eggs for Solidarity

Though American churches are trying out the art of making pysanka, Ukrainian Christians say it is not a religious tradition.

To do the ancient Ukrainian practice of pysanky, you need a strong, smooth egg and a lot of patience.

North American churches are taking up the delicate egg decorating art form, dating back thousands of years, as a way of showing solidarity with and raising money for war-torn Ukraine ahead of Easter.

A number of Episcopal churches in the United States have hosted pysanky events as a “form of prayer” for Ukraine. A Catholic community in Ontario, Canada, said it would begin doing pysanky on Sunday afternoons as “a contemplative activity offered for our suffering world.” A church in Connecticut planned an afternoon decorating pysanka eggs (pysanka is the singular form of pysanky) combined with a prayer vigil.

Several American churches have interpreted the Ukrainian cultural practice spiritually: that it has the power to keep evil at bay, or that the egg symbolizes new life and Christ’s resurrection, or that it is a “Lenten tradition.”

But according to Ukrainian Christians, the art of pysanky does not have spiritual significance on its own. It is a pre-Christian cultural practice from the region.

Joan Brander, a Ukrainian Canadian pysanky artist who has written books on the art form, told CT she considers the tradition purely Ukrainian with no religious connotation.

Zlata Zubenko, a Ukrainian American and a Christian, also considers the art of pysanky as more of a folk tradition and a symbol of Ukrainian national identity.

Some Ukrainian sources noted that the cultural practice is more associated with Orthodox Easter traditions.

Pastor Michael Cherenkov, who grew up in Ukraine and now pastors a Baptist church in Washington state, said evangelicals don’t usually make pysanka eggs as a religious …

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