About Paschal Baskets
THE PASCHAL BASKET
On paschal night we bring a wicker basket full of food we abstained from during Great Lent. After the midnight Paschal Liturgy, we all gather together to bless the Pascha baskets and enjoy breaking the fast. We light the candles and the priest offers the special Paschal Blessing to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ!
These baskets have been prepared with many of the foods from which we’ve been fasting during Great Lent. Several foods are traditionally included in the basket: yeast bread, bitter herb, wine, cheese, meat, butter, salt, and a red egg. Each item in the basket has symbolic meaning.
Pascha – The Easter Bread, a sweet, yeast bread, rich in eggs and butter. Symbolic of Christ Himself, who is “the Bread of Life.” John 6:35. This bread is usually a round loaf baked with a golden crust and decorated with a cross.
Cheese and Butter remind us of the Promised Land, re-opened to us by Christ’s Resurrection and which “land” we find in the Church, “a land of milk and honey.” Exodus 3:17
Meat – Usually ham or lamb (lamb was always offered in the Temple and eaten on the Passover), meat comes as a rich reward after our season of fasting. Lamb reminds us of Christ, whom John the Baptist calls, “the Lamb of God” John 1:36. The meat is usually cooked so the festivities of the day will not be burdened with preparation.
Sausage – a spicy, garlic sausage of pork products indicates God’s favor and generosity. Smoked and fresh kielbasa are customarily in the basket.
Hard Boiled Eggs – As the chick emerges from the confinement of the shell, so Christ resurrects from the tomb. St. Mary Magdalene appeared to Tiberius Caesar and greeted him with a red egg and the words, “Christ is Risen!”
As we crack our hard-boiled eggs on Easter, it is traditional for two people to crack them together. The first says, “Christ is Risen!” and the second replies, “Indeed, He is Risen!”
Those who are able often include pysanky (Ukrainian decorated eggs) in their baskets as well.
Horseradish – colored with red beets is symbolic of the passion of Christ, still in our minds, but sweetened with some sugar to remind us of the Resurrection.
Bacon – A piece of uncooked bacon cured with spices, the fattest of foods, symbolizes the super-overabundance of Him who says, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundance.” John 10:10
Salt – Christ calls His disciples “the salt of the earth.” Matthew 5:13. To be followers of Christ, we, too, must spread the ‘seasoning of Christ’, the good news of His Resurrection throughout society.
This is the traditional Slavic basket, but your Easter basket may contain your own preferred items. If you like Mexican or Hispanic goodies, by all means include them.
(adapted with the help of a number of sites and written materials.)