Easter Baskets

Since Easter is just a few weeks away, I thought I would share an Easter tradition today.  This is not strictly an Eastern Rite tradition, the Easter Basket.  Here is what was in ours and what the different foods meant.

The foods that were “forbidden” on strict abstinence days were the foods that were typically placed in the Easter Basket which was blessed on Holy Saturday.  I was really hard when my grandmother would be cooking the food for the basket.  All these wonderful smells filled the house, but nothing could be eaten until after the Easter Sunday Liturgy.

Here is a breakdown of what is found in a typical basket.  Of course, items changed with each family, but there were some staples.First there was the pascha (paska)/  This was a sweet yeast bread, a symbol of Christ who is the true bread.  The pascha was usually round with a cross on top and a braided ring around the edge.This kind of gave it a crown effect.

Then there was the  Hrudka (hrood-ka).  This is a cheese ball similar to farmers cheese.  My grandmother would cook the eggs and other ingredients, place it in a cheese cloth,form it into a ball, and hang it up until all of the liquid dripped out of it. This has a rather bland taste to remind us that we should have moderation in all things.

Ham was a major part of Easter dinner so a ham was also placed in the basket.  This made for good pickins all day.  We usually didn’t have a hot meal on Easter but just eat everything that was in the basket. This way no one was burdened with cooking a big meal.  Time could be spent with family.

Couldn’t have an Easter basket without maslo (ma-slo).  This is just butter.  It could be quarter sticks, or it could be shaped into a lamb or cross.

Next came the pisanki (pi-sun-ki).  Hard boiled eggs brightly colored and decorated with symbols relating to new life and resurrection.  I remember sitting in our neighbor’s kitchen while she made the pisanki.  My job was to scrape off the bees wax that was used to draw the design.  Some pisanki and be quite elaborate and colorful.  Hers were for eating, not decoration.  On a side note, the first thing my grandmother would do after church was to peel an egg, cut it into sections, and give a piece to each of us while saying the traditional Greek Easter greeting, “Christos voskrese” (Christ is Risen) to which we would respond “Voistinu voskrese” (Indeed he is Risen).

No basket would be complete, at least for me, without the Kolbasi (kol-bus-i).  This is just sausage.  We would habe both fresh and smoked.  My favorite was and still is the smoked kolbasi.

To round out the Easter Basket there would be salt and horseradish.  The salt is a reminder of our duty to others while the horseradish reminds us of the sufferings of Christ.

A candle was placed in the basket.  This would be lit at the time of the blessing.  All the food in the basket was covered with a lined cloth usually with the words “Christ is Risen” embroidered on it.

Any other items a family wanted blessed could also be placed in the basket.


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8 responses to “Easter Baskets

  1. Lovely. I am Orthodox and there are a lot of similarities. Although I attend a Greek Orthodox Church, we are a mix of Greek, Russian, Lebanese, Ethiopian and converts. We alwaus have tsoureki (Greek Easter bread. Our pashka, is the Russian sweet ricotta cheese spread. Our church has a lamb roast. And everywhere we have red eggs. It is joyous and delicious.

  2. So interesting to read about these traditions and their meaning. My husband spent a year in Greece when he was in the Army chaplaincy, and I got to visit. I might try to write about that…need to get the photo albums out to stir up memories.

  3. Judy C.

    I could imagine you as a child waiting while your Grandmother filled the basket with all these goodies. It is very interesting to learn of your traditions and meanings. Thank you for sharing.

  4. What a great tradition! Patricia Polacco writes and illustrates many picture books with the pisanki taking center stage in her family traditions. Such a beautiful craft!

  5. So does Kathy make these foods for you now? I had to chuckle when you said the meal on Easter was not hot so no one had to work. They worked really hard prior to that day, so they deserved a break. Thanks for continuing the lessons. Very interesting!

  6. Again…so interesting. So much meaning in each item in the basket. I remember using paraffin to make designs on our Easter Eggs. I am learning so much from your posts.

  7. Jaana

    I love reading about different traditions! I learn so much by reading your blog!

  8. The basket sounds wonderful. So different from my family’s traditions. It’s fascinating to read!

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