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Ukrainian Traditional Easter Basket – Special Food and Symbolism

Ukrainian Traditional Easter BasketI love the traditions associated with Ukrainian Easter, and especially the Blessing of the Easter Basket, which contains all the food items used at Easter Brunch.

The Easter Basket of special foods (described below) is arranged on Holy Saturday, and taken to church, where a special blessing ceremony with prayers and sprinkling with Holy Water, is performed by the parish priest.  Some churches perform their basket blessing on Easter Sunday, after the Morning Liturgy.

Besides the special foods, the Easter Basket is also decorated with greenery and flowers, as well as colored eggs, and beautiful Pysanky.

Each basket is covered with a hand embroidered cloth cover, with Easter motif of pussy willows and Easter Eggs.

This blessed food may not be consumed until after the morning Resurrection Liturgy on Easter Sunday.

The food in the basket is the only food being consumed at the Easter Brunch, which breaks The Great Lent fasting.

After Easter Brunch, the Easter celebration continues for the rest of the day, with family and friends visiting, and enjoying many other foods and desserts.

Today I will describe all the different foods used to fill the basket, and their Christian symbolism.


Paska – Special Easter Bread (sweet yeast bread, rich in eggs, butter, etc), takes the center stage in the basket.

Symbolic of Christ, who is the True Bread to Christians. Paska bread is always round in shape, and decorated with a dough braid around the perimeter, and an ornamental cross in the middle.  The Cross reminds Christians that Christ died on the Cross for their salvation.

Diets and Watson Smoked Ham

Baked Ham – very popular meat for the Slavs as the main dish, because of its richness.  It is symbolic of the great joy, and abundance of Easter.  Some prefer Lamb or Veal.

Kobasa from NYC

Kobasa – a spicy, garlicky, smoked pork sausage.  Indicative of God’s favor and generosity.

Burachky - Red Beet Vineagrette Horseradish

Red Beet Vinaigrette (with Horseradish), or plain Horseradish, is symbolic of the Passion of Christ still in the minds of Christians, but sweetened with some sugar, because of the Resurrection.  The bitter-sweet red colored mixture is a reminder of the sufferings of Christ.


Salt is also included in the basket, necessary for flavor, and as a reminder to Christians of their duty to others.


Butter – A favorite dairy product, is usually nicely displayed and decorated with a cross made out of cloves, or allspice grains.  Some prefer to mold it into a shape of a Lamb.  Butter is symbolic of  the goodness of Christ, that we should have toward all things.


Cheese – Creamed cheese, or “Hrudka”, a sweetened cheese ball, decorated with same herbs as butter, indicative of the moderation that Christians should have in all things.

Eggs – are another very important food item in the Easter Basket.  All eggs are hard boiled, and kept in their shell. There should be at least one or two hard boiled eggs per person, for the Easter Brunch.  One of the hard boiled eggs is peeled, as it will be cut to as many pieces as there are attendees to the Easter Brunch, and shared with everyone, accompanied by salt and horseradish.

Wishing you a Happy and Blessed Easter!!

35 thoughts on “Ukrainian Traditional Easter Basket – Special Food and Symbolism”

  1. Staci says:

    Sigh… I miss this tradition. I moved from my family 26 years ago and our family traditions didn’t make the move with us, mostly because we moved from the north to the south where “Old Country” heritage is almost nonexistent.

    A couple of years ago I found a Polish priest at a Catholic church about 60 miles away who was blessing baskets. That year I prepared a basket just as I remembered my mom did when I was a little girl and traveled the 60 miles to have my basket blessed with five other women and their beautiful baskets.

  2. Suburban Grandma says:

    I know exactly what you mean. Several years back I lived in Virginia, and had to travel to Washington, DC to bless our paska. We were lucky enough to find a Ukrainian church in DC, and it was such a moving experience to see all the people with their Easter Baskets full of delicious Easter food for blessing.
    I totally applaud you for trying to keep up with the tradition, and teaching your family about it.
    Happy Easter!

  3. Ukrainian Mama says:

    Love your website Suburban Grandma! Stumbled across it today and I’m enjoying some of your archived posts. Wanted to share with you that the tradition of blessing Easter Baskets in both Ukrainian Catholic and Orthodox Churches is still celebrated up here in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Ukrainian meat markets and bakeries do a huge business on Easter weekend and the churches are packed with people dressed in their finest spring clothes, bearing beautiful baskets filled with traditional Ukrainian Easter breakfast foods. A wonderful tradition that will last forever…

  4. Suburban Grandma says:

    Khrystos Voskres!
    Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to leave such a lovely comment. I am very pleased to hear that Ukrainian in Canada are continuing to practice this beautiful Easter tradition. You all are lucky to have Ukrainian businesses who provide the wonderful foods (paska, kobasa, etc), to fill Easter Baskets with, and enjoy on Easter Sunday.
    Please stop by again.

  5. Sheila says:

    This looks SO good! 🙂 And it is so nice that you religiously follow your tradition. Hope you had a wonderful Easter! 🙂

  6. Hanne says:

    Hello from Denmark!
    I found your wonderfull web-site searching for a paska recipe! Thank you for bringing recipes and telling about ukranian easter-traditions! I have a daughter in law from Ukraine.
    Next year I will make her paska for Easter!

  7. Suburban Grandma says:

    Thank you so much.
    Yes, I am very lucky to have such a rich Easter tradition, and able to teach my family all about it as well to pass it on to future generations. I had a wonderful Easter, thank you.

  8. Suburban Grandma says:

    Welcome to Suburbangrandma! I am so glad you stumbled upon my website, and found it interesting, thank you very much.
    You are such a nice mother-in-law to plan on making paska, to make your Ukrainian daughter-in-law feel more at home. So sweet of you, and I am sure she will appreciate it. If she has any special recipes she wants to share, I would be more than happy to try and post. Thank you.

  9. LWE says:

    Thank you for your beautiful posts and photos! My grandfather was Ukrainian, and I am trying to keep these beautiful customs alive in our family. I very much appreciate your complete descriptions and photo– thank you so much for sharing.

  10. Suburban Grandma says:

    The pleasure is all mine.
    I am glad you found my blog interesting, and helpful.
    I applaud you for trying to keep the Ukrainians customs of your ancestors alive, and passing them on to future generations. Your Grandfather would have been very proud of you!
    Happy Easter! Khrystos Voskres- Voistynu Voskres!

  11. Suburban Grandma says:

    Thank you so much for enjoying my website. Please stop by anytime.
    I am so happy to hear that soooooo many people out there are making PASKA for Easter. I received numerous emails about their paska baking experience, and am so proud of everyone out there baking this special bread, and keeping up with a beautiful Easter tradition.
    Thank you for the tip on yet another idea for paska bakeware. I will look into it and pass it on as well.
    Happy Easter!!

  12. Hanna Szach says:

    Hello Suburban Grandma,
    By chance I came across your website.I am married to a Ukrainian man
    for 42 yrs/His mother always kept the traditions going every year.
    Unfortunately she now has Dementia but for a treat this year I made Vereniki for the Good Friday Evening Meal(potato and fried onions ) They turned out delicious.I am now trying to get more recipes for the Religious celebrations,so you site has been a great help.
    Thankyou from Australia.

  13. Suburban Grandma says:

    I’m so happy that you found my site, and are enjoying the recipes. Let me know if you are searching for any particular recipe, not posted on my site yet, and I will try to help you out.
    You are a wonderful lady to continue the Ukrainian tradition, and bring joy to your mother-in-law, with your culinary creations. God Bless you! Thank you for the lovely comment.

  14. Al says:

    My Mother and sister used to make a horseradish and hardboild egg combination at breakfast, I think maybe with some vinager but not sure. Sadly both have gone to heaven and no one can recall how this was made. Any ideas?

  15. Suburban Grandma says:

    I am not sure what type of dish you are thinking of??
    Most people who like horseradish, eat it on top of their hard boiled eggs, sliced and placed on a piece of paska…open face sandwich like.
    I guess you can make a egg salad with horseradish, but I am sure you would need some mustard or mayo to hold it all together. I don’t think vinegar would be needed with this combination. Vinegar is needed for making the red beets salad for Easter, as well as horseradish.
    I wish I could help more, but that is all I can think of now.

  16. vickii Kostyrko says:

    I am preparing my basket today. It contains the traditional items you mentioned. However we also incorporated roasted veggies and fresh fruits as well as soy based sausage products since we are watching our health as we age. Any idea to improve the traditional basket with health wise choices would be appreciated!

  17. Suburban Grandma says:

    Traditional Ukrainian food items for Easter are kind of difficult to replace. However, I did hear of chicken Kobasa made in NYC….you can eat only egg whites, and discard the yolks. You can soak, or boil the ham, to cook out some of the salt. The red beets and horseradish are healthy for you. There is low fat cream cheese, and light butter. But, I figured if you eat the traditional foods as they are once a year, at Easter, and watch your diet for the rest of the year, you should be fine, unless these foods are creating issues for you from the get go.

  18. julie wenhlowskyj says:

    For Grated Eggs; Horseradish Just grate eggs add a jar of Masterfoods Horseradish cream 4/6 eggs to 1 jar. Otherwise Grated Horseradish; mayonaise
    For grated beetroot I only use a few jars or Horseradish cream now!
    So simple; so delicious! Thank you for sharing smachnoho from Australia

  19. Suburban Grandma says:

    Thank you for sharing your easy eggs and beetroot recipe tips.
    Appreciate your time for stopping by my site and leaving a comment.
    Hope your Easter was wonderful.

  20. Angella says:

    Brilliant website ! Thank you for sharing your recipes. I am an Australian born Ukrainian / Italian and I’m really enjoying learning about heritage. Happy easter blessings to you and your families.

  21. Suburban Grandma says:

    I am extremely happy to hear that you are very interested in learning about your Ukrainian heritage, and that you stumbled upon my website.
    Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to read my posts and to leave a kind comment.
    Happy Easter!
    Khrystos Voskres – Voistynu Voskres
    Christ is Risen. Indeed He is Risen.

  22. HRHQueecat says:

    memories !!! I live in Australia with both my parents having had Ukrainian Orthodox parents – these customs were fully celebrated when I was younger but not so much any more as only my Mum is alive & is very old

  23. Suburban Grandma says:

    I’m sorry to hear that you are not keeping up with these beautiful traditions. Does your church still practice the Easter Basket Blessing? Baking your own paska bread is not that difficult, and if you check out my recipe, it really is so easy and never fails. I feel very blessed that I still am able to continue this tradition with my family. My daughter and daughter-in-law learned to bake their own paska bread, and enjoy it.
    Maybe some day you will get the urge to give it a try.
    Thank you for reading my posts and leaving a comment.

  24. Charles Christopher says:

    Thank you sub-granny, I’m a converted Protestant to the beautiful Ukrainian Catholic religion 3 blessed years ago. I’m making my Easter basket & checked on your GREAT website to insure I have all the foods needed. Thank you & God.

  25. Suburban Grandma says:

    I am so pleased to hear that you were impressed by our Eastern Rite Catholic religion, and our very rich cultural traditions.
    Thank you very much for stopping by my site and finding it helpful for your Easter Basket assembly….Enjoy your Blessed Easter Food.
    Khrystos Voskres! Voistynu Voskres! Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

  26. Kristina says:

    This is a wonderful website! it helps me to remember all the things that go in the basket… just like Baba used to do!

  27. Suburban Grandma says:

    You are such a sweetheart! Thank you so much for such kind comments. I feel delighted to know that in my small ways I am able to enrich the life of others.
    Have a wonderful Easter.
    Khrystos Voskres! Voistynu Voskres!

  28. suburbangrandma says:

    Today I received this comments on Facebook, so decided to include it here for all of you to view. Comments like this one touch my heart, and make me feel that the time I spent on preparing these posts are worth my effort, as they bring back memories to many of my readers. I totally appreciate all comments you all take time to leave on my posts. Thank you so much.
    Here is this comment:

    Barbara Strong
    March 28 at 6:18pm

    “Thank you so much for your online website showing some of the wonderful things we Ukies are supposed to do for Easter. My grandparents on my mother’s side emigrated from Ukraine in 1910 and 1907, and my mom and her sisters are all dead and gone, so it is very nice to have someone like you to give instructions and recipes. I look forward to celebrating Easter with my Daughter, grandson, other family members, and neighbors who are themselves Ukrainian immigrants. Just wanted to write a note and thank you. Barbara Strong”

    Again, Thank you so much Barbara for stopping by my post and for leaving such a sweet comment. Happy Easter to you and your family. Khrystos Voskres! Voistynu Voskres! which means Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen! …a greeting exchanged on Easter Sunday.

  29. Linda says:

    After the basket blessing My mom would take the Easter basket ingredients and chop them up. Ham kielbasa fresh sausage hard boiled eggs and mix it with vinegar and grated fresh horseradish. It was watery from the vinegar but definitely not soup. We called it chop chop since it was chopped from the food in the basket. I have never found a recipe as to what this could be called. We are of polish background. I certainly do miss the old family traditions.

  30. Suburban Grandma says:

    Actually, one of my aunts makes this White Borscht for Easter, also known as “Zurek”, where everyone adds their own chopped ham, eggs, sausage and even some people add the horseradish red beet vinaigrette, and turn it into a one dish meal. You are correct, it is very popular Polish dish for Easter. Here is a link for the Zhurek recipe….

  31. Tatiana says:

    Dear Suburban Babocha
    My grandparents come to this great country in time for the Depression. They never regretted it, however their customs and faith still live on. Thanks for sharing and encouraging others to honor their families and heritage. I grew up in the mid-west but Alaska has been home over 30 years. Soon I will be making our paska and putting the family basket together to take to the midnight Liturgy. It is the most holiest of days for Christians. God’s blessings on you and your family.
    Christ is Risen! Khrystos Voskres!

  32. Suburban Grandma says:

    Voistynu Voskres!! Indeed He is Risen!!
    Happy Easter!! You just made my heart sing…..:-) I am so pleased to hear that your grandparents did such a wonderful job passing on the Ukrainian traditions to their future generations, and now you are proudly practicing these with such enthusiasm. May the Lord Bless you generously, and may your Paska and Kovbasa be tasty for your Easter meal.
    Thank you so much for finding my blog, and leaving such heart warming comments.

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  35. Valerie Dreewrys Wadephul says:

    I am a ‘young’ 75 and the blessed traditional foods with their symbolism are still very special to me. A couple of my children still enjoy our Easter breakfast of them but I sadly feel that this tradition may die with me as my husband comes from a German background. This breakfast was so special to us because of the abstaining from meat for the whole weekend and trying to fast to a greater degree than usual. We were all ‘starving’ by Easter morning. After Mass and Communion, the next 1st food was a blessed egg!! In our family the eldest parent, either matriarch or patriarch 1st took 1 egg and cut it into as many pieces as there were people having breakfast; then starting with their spouse and going from eldest child to the youngest they would salt it with the blessed salt and say to each person, “Christ has risen!.” and they would reply “Indeed He has risen!” and they would then take a piece of the egg to eat. All eating of the 1 same egg symbolized the oneness of the family in Faith. If the family is large those pieces of egg were pretty small, but very special!

  36. Suburban Grandma says:

    I am not too far behind you in age….:-) and as you I also really love this tradition. It makes Easter that much more special, in addition to the religious part of it. Happy Easter!

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