Ukrainian Easter Basket – Beautiful Tradition
Easter is such a beautiful holiday, but here in the US, it does not even get close to the vast recognition that Christmas is showered with.
I know that for many people the best thing about Easter is ham dinner, and Easter Egg Hunt games. These are wonderful and fun, but for me that is just not enough. Easter is not only a secular holiday but also a very spiritual one, at least for Christians.
My family and I feel very lucky to be familiar with, and able to practice the Ukrainian Easter traditions. Besides the 40 days of the Great Lent, and the different church services from Holy Thursday through Easter Sunday, there is the traditional Easter Basket Blessing, which takes place at our church on Holy Saturday, or right after the Sunrise Easter Sunday Liturgy in other parishes.
Actually, not only the Ukrainians bless their Easter Baskets, but also the Roman Catholics in Poland follow this tradition as well, which is almost identical to the Ukrainian one.
Unfortunately, here in the US, not many Roman Catholic churches continue this beautiful tradition, including even the Polish parishes.
I am very curious to know if the Polish Catholics in other foreign countries continue with this tradition because I know for a fact that this is a must for Ukrainians all around the world.
By now you are probably getting very anxious to find out about this tradition, and of course, I can’t wait to tell you.
Since the Great Lent lasts for 40 days, culminating with the morning of Easter Sunday, everyone is anxiously awaiting to partake of the foods in the Easter Basket at Easter Sunday breakfast/brunch.
The Traditional Ukrainian Easter Basket contains the following foods:
- Paska (Easter Bread)
- Pork (some people also add lamb and veal)
- Red Beets Vinaigrette
- Boiled Eggs (including Pysanky for decoration)
- Wine (optional)
Some people also include a piece of lamb, veal, and smoked bacon.
Here is a link to the symbolic meaning associated with each of these foods placed in the basket for blessing for Easter.
Below I am sharing photos of all the different baskets at my church, brought in by our parishioners to have them blessed for Easter.
All of these foods are prepared the day before and arranged in the basket the day of the blessing. The completed basket is decorated with flowers and greens (optional, but almost everyone does it), covered with a foil or saran wrap, to protect the embroidered scarf from getting food stains.
The beautifully arranged baskets are taken to the local Ukrainian church for a Blessing. The parish priest is all dressed in his special holiday robes, carries a cross, holy water, and a prayer book, chants all the special prayers associated with all the foods to be blessed, and generously sprinkles the Holy Water all over the food-filled baskets and his parishioners.
It is a beautiful sight, to see the numerous baskets sitting atop rows of tables, with a burning candle in each, and beautiful embroidery adorning each basket, not to mention the wonderful aroma of the food.
Ahhh… if you could only imagine the aroma of fresh bread, smoked meats, horseradish…it is an amazing thing to experience.
The tough part is, that you are not allowed to eat any of this food until after the Easter Sunday Liturgy, and in addition to that, you are fasting the whole day on Holy Saturday. Now you know why this food smells so wonderful on Saturday and tastes even better on Easter Sunday.
Once everyone returns home from Easter Sunday Liturgy, the Easter Sunday brunch begins with the whole family sitting by the table, having all the food from the basket placed in the middle of the table, then the head of the household begins with a prayer and passing around one blessed egg sliced to as many pieces as there are participants and everyone is greeted with Khrystos Voskres, Voistynu Voskres! (Christ is Risen, Indeed He is Risen). After that everyone partakes of the Paska, and all the other blessed foods. Some families also serve potato salad, macaroni salad, tossed salad, roasted vegetables, and complete the brunch with a myriad of baked desserts, wine, coffee, and tea.
HAPPY EASTER TO YOU ALL!!
CHRIST IS RISEN – INDEED HE IS RISEN! (English)
KHRYSTOS VOSKRES – VOISTYNU VOSKRES!! (Ukraninian)
KHRYSTUS ZMARTVYCHVSTAL – PRAVDZIVIE ZMARTVYCHVSTAL! (Polish)