Babushka, my grandmother, smiled a wide smile as she sat at the kitchen table. Jars of bright colors peeked over old newspaper. She patted the chair beside her and I sat down. A basket of eggs sat in the middle of the table, along with a candle, a small pot and some sticks. “When I was a girl, my mother taught me how to make pysanky,” she said.
“What are pysanky, Babushka?”
“Pysanky are Ukrainian Easter eggs. We make pysanky for good luck and because it is tradition,” she said. “Each spring we make them, just as our mothers and grandmothers did before us, and their mothers and grandmothers before them.”
Babushka held out a basket with some of the eggs she had finished. They were very detailed with many lines and bright colors. Some had animals on them, like birds, horses, sheep and deer. Several others had flowers and plants.
“In pysanky, there are many symbols. Every line means something,” said Babushka.
She handed me an egg with lines circling it. “Lines that go around an egg make a circle. Circles do not start or stop. They can stand for cycles that repeat, like the seasons.” I spun the egg in my hand and looked at the circles that the lines made.
“What about the animals?” I asked, pointing to an egg with a horse on it.
“Different animals mean different things,” Babushka said. “Horses, sheep and cows are drawn onto eggs to bring farmers good luck. Farmers may rub these eggs on the foreheads of their animals to make them strong and healthy!”
Babushka gave me an egg with a fish on it. “Fish stand for good luck and good fortune. Many stories are told where fish helped people find their way.”
“What about this one?” I asked, looking at an egg covered in triangles.
“That is a forty triangles pattern. The triangles represent different parts of life, such as childhood, work, being a mother, and traveling. Each triangle stands for part of a person’s life without actually showing it.” Babushka smiled. “The forty triangles pysanky are used for wedding gifts.”
Babushka had made so many! Each one was a little different from the rest. “Why do you make so many pysanky, Babushka?” I asked.
“An old legend says that as long as people make pysanky, there will be good in the world. When we make pysanky, evil will be kept away. But if there are few or no pysanky made, evil will be strong and bad things would happen all over the world.”
“Babushka...” I asked, “Can I come help you make pysanky next spring?”
“You certainly can, Little One,” said Babushka. “You certainly can.