This Easter weekend I returned to my Ukrainian roots and took part in the Blessing of Easter baskets. Easter and the Holy Week leading up to it, has always been a very special time of year for me. Growing up in the Ukrainian Catholic faith, we had so many faith-filled traditions with deep-rooted meaning and many involving food. I still have fond memories of all of our extended family celebrating at the table with the basket of blessed food.
As a dietitian, Easter is a good reminder to me that food is so much more than nourishment. Sharing food is also about human connection. It is a way that people connect on a social and cultural level. Sharing meals establishes a sense of stability, security, togetherness and belonging that not only benefits children but adults as well.
The day before Easter on Holy Saturday, Ukrainians prepare a basket of food for their families and then have it blessed by the priest at their church. The Easter basket symbolizes the joy and gratitude marking the end of Lent. After the Easter Sunday Divine Liturgy the food is eaten in celebration of the Resurrection of Christ. Not a morsel of food is thrown away because everything is blessed. (Even the egg shells are ground up and often put in the dirt outside with the plants.) The basket contains specific foods and items that symbolize different aspects of our Christian faith:
- symbolizes Jesus Christ and the joy of the new life He has given to us
- a sweet white bread rich in eggs decorated with braids, crosses, etc.
- symbolizes Christ as “the light of the world”
- made of beeswax and lit during the blessing
- symbolizes Christ’s death and resurrection
- Pysanky are intricately decorated eggs
- Krashanky are hard-boiled eggs often dyed and meant to be eaten
- symbolizes the goodness of Christ which we need to reflect to others
- symbolizes the great joy and abundance of Easter
- symbolizes God’s favour and generousity
- the blandness symbolizes the moderation that we should cultivate in our daily lives
- symbolizes that we are followers of Christ and the meaning of life is to live according to the Gospel
- a reminder of Christ’s words: “You are the salt of the earth.”
- symbolizes the passion and death of Christ and the bitterness of sin
Embroidered Cloth Cover:
- symbolizes Christ’s shroud (white linen)
- (this cloth is usually embroidered with an image of the risen Christ, a cross or other appropriate symbol or words)
I feel blessed to have a heritage so rich in customs and traditions that has brought me so many fond childhood memories. Whatever your culture or customs may be, I encourage you to keep them alive with your family and pass on these beautiful and meaningful traditions to your children!