Saturday, April 11, 2009

Margutis time!

Easter Sunday hasn't started yet where I live, but I'm sure the preparations have been going on for a while now. For many of us, the preparation involves coloring eggs.

A month ago, at Atlantia's Kingdom Arts & Sciences Festival, a woman was running a demonstration of making pysanky, or Ukranian Easter eggs. I had the opportunity to make one myself. I can't say I'm the world's greatest artist, but here's how mine turned out:

I enjoyed doing this pysanka, certainly. But how would it fit in with my Lithuanian persona?

Well, as you might suspect, pysanky are part of a lot of Eastern European cultures. The Lithuanians use the word margutis for this type of artwork; it doesn't sound much like pysanky, but there you have it. Lithuanian eggs tend to be a little more muted than their Ukrainian counterparts, with more earth tones, and different patterns too. Right after the Kingdom Arts & Sciences Festival, I found this example. I also found a page describing Lithuanian Easter customs. It's interesting to read through the customs and tease out the old Pagan traditions mingled in with the Christianity. The essay also explains why, for years, I could never find other people who did "egg fights" with hard-boiled eggs on Easter Sunday, the way my family did. It's a Lithuanian custom! My father must have gotten it from his Lithuanian-immigrant parents.

By searching around a bit, I found more examples of Lithuanian decorated eggs. You can probably find more, especially if you search on the word margutis. Finally, through the Web site of the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture in Chicago, I found an online tribute to Ramute Plioplys, a folk artist in the Lithuanian tradition.



  1. My sister-in-law has done psyanky for years, both traditional designs and her own unique creations.

    Is Lithuania mainly in the Orthodox church? If so, their Easter is next Sunday.

  2. Wow, your sister-in-law has done some cool eggs! I particularly like the Chinese dragon and the Australian aboriginal design. Impressive!

    Lithuania is predominantly Roman Catholic -- something like 80 percent of the population -- so today is Easter for them. Russians are a smaller ethnic minority in Lithuania than the other Baltic states -- maybe about 5 percent -- and I don't know how many of them are Russian Orthodox. About 9 percent of Lithuanians are Lutheran. The rest are Jewish, Muslim or other.

  3. Ha ha, now I'm leaving comments on all your posts. Traditional Latvian egg-decorating from my boyfriend's family: boil half your eggs in onion skins for fifteen minutes, then use a pen knife to scratch cives designs into the eggshell, flaking off the outermost layer to reveal the white underneath.
    Take the rest of your eggs, wrap them in leaves or rubberbands or anything you find in your house with a neat texture, then wrap them in pantyhose and boil them with the onion skins for fifteen minutes.
    I know I have pictures somewhere online but can't find them, so I've just uploaded a new one here: