The Easter Basket is a prominent Ukrainian tradition. The baskets are blessed by the priest at mass, and their contents eaten on Easter Sunday.
Ukrainian Easter Basket Contents & Meaning:
The Paska Bread:
For Ukrainians, this Paska is one of the essential foods for Easter. Paska is a large round Easter bread that is decorated with braids, flowers, and religious symbols such as the cross. Traditionally, the production of the Paska was a ceremonial affair, during which the women preparing the bread were told to keep their thoughts pure and men often stood guard outside the home to ward off evil spirits.
Pysanky are eggs decorated with intricate Easter symbols with a stylus using beeswax and dyes on eggshell. These eggs are not to be eaten, but to be given as a gift to friends and family member as a sign of good wishes for those who receive them. You can learn how to write a pysanka with our simple blog post here!
Krashanky are boiled eggs dyed with natural colours. Traditionally, these eggs were only coloured in red to symbolise Christ’s blood, although nowadays they can be a range of colours. Krashanky are usually eaten first during the Easter breakfast. There is a traditional rhyme recited by children on Willow Sunday as they 'tap' you with the willow branch:
Не я б’ю, верба б’є. I’m not hitting you, the willow is hitting you.
За тиждень – Великдень. In a week it will be Easter.
Недалечко червоне яєчко. Soon you’ll have a red egg.
Traditionally, Ukrainians put meat products in their Easter basket such as ham or smoked sausage (kovbasa) as a symbol of God’s generosity.
Two types of dairy products can be found in the Easter Basket: cheese and butter. For Ukrainian Orthodox, dairy is not permitted during Lent, so this is often used to break the fast after church on Easter Sunday.
Salt & Horseradish:
Horseradish reminds us of the bitterness of the Crucifixion, whereas salt is to remind us of the gifts the Earth has provided us.
White or Purple Candle:
The candle is to be placed in the Paska and lit during the Blessing of the baskets. It reminds Ukrainians of the light of Christ.
Written by Leah Dorotiak for Huddersfield Ukrainian Club.