The Good Christmas Egg – GREENVILLE JOURNAL

While his place is behind the pulpit on Sundays, many Saturday mornings from May to October, you will find Pastor Steve Saxe at the TD Saturday Market behind a table displaying a stunning array of decorated chicken, duck and goose eggs. These are not just any eggs. The colorful and complex eggs are pysanky (derived from the Russian word pysate, meaning ‘to write’), an art form that originated in the ancient pagan tribes of Ukraine and Romania as an integral part of springtime rituals – talismans to bring good luck, ward off evil spirits and ensure a fruitful harvest.

Senior Pastor at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Greenville, Steve became fascinated by pysanky after he and his wife took an egg-making workshop in 2001. The instructor singled out the pastor for his obvious skills in the trade, and that motivated Pastor Steve to continue. Two decades later, the part-time artisan estimates that he has produced thousands of pysanky. “Doing the job helps me focus my thoughts and calm my brain,” he says. “I call it ‘art therapy’.”

Steve Saxony

The manufacturing process pysanky is a tedious method, based on a batik or resistant wax method. He starts by drilling a hole in the egg and blowing out the inside. After the egg is clean and dry, he seals the hole and divides the egg into 8 or 16 sections with a pencil as a base for his drawing, which he draws without using stencils or templates. He uses an electric stylus called a kistka apply beeswax in lines, ribbons or dots, in one of hundreds of different designs before coloring the eggs with commercial aniline dyes. “It’s a successive process of waxing, dyeing and drying,” says Pastor Steve. “When I have finished my design, I take a candle and a paper towel and hold the egg to the side of the flame to melt the beeswax so that all the colors are visible. He finishes by applying a polyurethane patina to give shine and make the egg more durable.

Colors vary from two to a total of six or seven, the latter taking much longer to create. Originally, white, yellow, red, orange, and black were the only colors used, but modern commercial dyes have expanded this palette. Traditional designs, many of which have survived from ancient times and were given new meaning with the advent of Christianity, have religious significance. “The most commonly used symbol is an eight-sided cross,” explains the pastor, who is inspired by the books he buys at the Ukrainian gift shop in Minneapolis. “For the ancients, the number 8 represented infinity. I use eight-pointed crosses a lot, as well as flowers and animals. The fish symbolizes Jesus Christ, while the nets refer to fishers of men. A triangle represents the Holy Trinity and the dots reproduce the tears of Mary, the mother of God.

“I see pysanky as a sacred art form, ”shares Pastor Steve. “I believe that it has a sacramental significance, in that the egg is a visible object which communicates an invisible and uncreated reality. In pysanky, nature and grace come together. Eggs are pointers to a truth that is greater than us.

Break with tradition

Even if pysanky have long been associated with Easter, Pastor Steve breaks with tradition in the eggs he designs as Christmas tree ornaments. Dyed predominantly in red and green, these eggs display their own original designs. Many have a royal blue background (rather than the traditional black), which stands out best when hung from a tree. Find Pastor Steve’s Eggs at Pysanky by Pastor at the TD Holiday Market on December 4 and 11. Prices vary from $ 20 to $ 90, depending on the size of the egg and the complexity of the design. You can also contact him via his Facebook page:

Photograph by Will Crooks


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