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The history and symbolism of Vegreville's Pysanka (Easter Egg)

March 30th, 2011

Pysanka is often taken to mean any type of decorated egg, but it specifically refers to an egg created by the written-wax batik method utilizing traditional folk motifs and designs.

As in many ancient cultures, Ukrainians worshipped a sun god. The sun warmed the earth and was a source of life. Eggs decorated with nature symbols became an integral part of spring rituals. They were traditionally made by the women of the family.

The art of the decorated egg in Ukraine probably dates back to ancient times. No actual ancient examples exist, as eggshells are fragile. The oldest "real" pysanka was excavated in Baturyn (northern Ukraine) in 2008, and dates to the end of the 17th century.

Newer legends blend folklore and Christian beliefs and firmly attach the egg to the Easter celebration. One legend tells of Virgin Mary giving eggs to soldiers at the cross. Her tears fell upon the eggs, dotting them with brilliant color.

In Vegreville, a giant Pysanka sits in Elk’s Park beside the fish pond at the east end of the town, highlighting the park entrance. 18 feet wide, 31 feet high and 25.7 feet long, it sits on a 27,000 pound base and turns in the wind like a weathervane.

The dedication message written in English, Ukrainian, French and German reads: “This Pysanka (Easter Egg) symbolizes the harmony, vitality and culture of the community and is dedicated as a tribute to the One-Hundredth Anniversary of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who brought peace and security to the largest multi-cultural settlement in all of Canada.”

The colours of bronze, silver and gold in Vegreville’s popular tourist attraction symbolize prosperity. Other symbols within it are:

Bronze - “good earth”
Radiating gold stars – Life and Good Fortune
Three pointed stars alternating in gold and silver - Devotion to the faith of ancestors
Band of silver with no beginning or end – Eternity
Gold and Silver windmills with six vanes and points – Rich harvest
Silver wolfs’ teeth – Protection and Security of pioneers by the R.C.M.P.



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