After the Paschal Vigil, our Pascha baskets are brought out for blessing (the origin of the “easter” basket) filled with the things we have fasted from for the last 40 days. These baskets have been carefully prepared and include several foods with a traditionally symbolic significance.
- Sweet bread is always included, leavened with yeast. This is a symbol of the New Covenant; the Jews made unleavened bread, and we, the Children of the New Covenant, make leavened bread. The braided form of this bread is a display of the Trinity.
- Pascha Cheese is a figure of all the sweetness of the Kingdom, and remind us of the earthly gifts that come from God. Pascha cheese is normally included, and there are many good recipes for it in the parish. If you don’t have one, ask someone. (Pres. Deborah has a great recipe, too)
- Butter – shaped into a figure of a lamb, or small cross. Like the Pascha Cheese, it represents the bountiful blessings poured out on us because of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God.
- Bitter herbs, usually horseradish, represents bondage, a reminder of the first Passover (horseradish is eaten as a traditional part of the original Passover meal) and of the bitter sufferings which Christ endured for our sake. Sometimes the herb is colored red with beets, symbolizing the Blood of Christ.
- Meat represents the bounty of God, and by it we remember that Christ, the Lamb of God, the New Passover has superseded the sacrifice of the Old Testament Passover. Lamb, veal, bacon and ham are favorites, as well as spicy sausage, loaded with garlic. These are usually cooked in advance so that during the festivity of the day, no one will be burdened with preparation. Meat after our 40 day fast reminds us of God’s great generosity.
- Red eggs are likened to the tomb from which Christ arose. This is because of the miracle of new life which comes from the egg, just as Christ miraculously came forth from the tomb. Traditionally decorated “pysanki” eggs are sometimes included.
- Wine symbolizes spiritual knowledge, and for us, the knowledge of the Holy Resurrection of Christ our God!
- Salt serves as a reminder to us that we are “the salt of the earth.” This feast does not end, but is completed as we share the joy of the Resurrection with the world, and all who will hear it. Salt reminds us of our duty to others, and in preaching the Gospel and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ!
- An Icon or icon card is frequently included in the basket. Usually an icon of the Resurrection or some other icon of Christ is used. After all, we are the true witnesses to His Resurrection!
- A Candle reminding us that Christ is the light of the world, and we must bear His light with joy especially during this “Bright” season. This candle is lit at the end of the Paschal Vigil, just prior to the blessing of baskets.
The Basket is now decorated with ribbons, usually white or festive, in honor of the Bright Feast of the Resurrection, and left open, so that during the blessing, each item in the basket may come in contact with the Holy Water. Every family brings their basket to the Vigil.
The Blessing of the baskets takes place immediately after the Paschal Vigil. The priest will indicate that it is time to bring forward the baskets, and where they are to be placed. Once they are blessed, the feast begins! Some families include their favorite treats and candies for the children, just as has been retained in the modern “Easter” basket. Other family treats are especially appropriate, based on family favorites.
Each of the foods in the Pascha basket have a rich meaning, as does everything in Orthodox Christianity. Preparing the Pascha basket is a family affair. Take the time to prepare them together!