Easter basket - what are the origins of the tradition?
Easter is the most important Christian event in the liturgical year. It’s not a surprise, then, that Christian countries hold special traditions connected with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They are particularly strong and passed on from generation to generation in Catholic and Orthodox countries, for instance Poland. Easter basket blessing is one of them. According to the belief, the practice is supposed to provide good luck, health and strength to the family.
Food blessing has been known by humanity for centuries. In Poland, the Easter basket tradition has become widespread after World War II. Typically, only the richest social groups could afford that. What’s more, the custom was initially prevalent only in the Eastern Poland. In time, it appeared in the central parts of the country as well. It is said the tradition was popularized in the 1980s., and is practiced every year since then.
An Easter basket and the custom of food blessing is not a solely Polish tradition - although it is probably the most famous in that country. The custom is also known in Austria, Germany and Slovenia. What’s more, it functions in other countries with Catholic and Orthodox churches.
When do you bless an Easter basket?
Although Easter is a movable feast, Easter basket blessing always happens in the same day. It’s Holy Saturday - usually in the morning and afternoon. After the blessing, the basket is brought back home and left aside. The contents are consumed the next day - typically during a festive breakfast. In Poland, the święconka (the contents of the basket) is eaten with sour rye soup, one of the traditional Easter foods.
Easter basket blessing - how is it done?
Easter baskets are typically blessed in churches. If the weather permits, the ritual is performed in front of the building, where tables are set. The faithful put their Easter baskets on them, the priest says a prayer and sprinkles them with holy water. If the weather is foul, the ceremony is moved inside the temple.
Many small towns bless their Easter baskets by the local shrines. The process is similar. Additionally, it’s an occasion to meet other members of the community and give best wishes to each other.
What to put in an Easter basket?
The contents of an Easter basket cannot be accidental. Each edible product put inside has a particular meaning. As it turns out, there are many such Easter symbols. Because of this, some families carry a huge Easter basket. Sometimes, several members of the family go to bless food, each having their container.
What should you put in an Easter basket, and what does each product mean? Here are the typical items you can find in a Polish Easter basket:
- bread - symbolizes Jesus Christ and His body,
- Easter eggs - refer to life that gets reborn,
- horseradish - a symbol of strength and health,
- salt - a symbol of sweat and suffering of Jesus,
- butter - a sign of wealth,
- cheese - a reference to the symbiosis of humans and animals,
- lamb - a symbol of victory of life over death,
- sausage, bacon or other type of cured meat - a symbol of wealth and fertility,
- a small cake - a sign of perfection and skill.
Sometimes, a traditional Easter basket contains pepper and water as well. Children put chocolate eggs, bunnies and chicks in their baskets. Some devout Catholics claim it’s a big mistake. A bunny is a pagan symbol and many people avoid it when preparing their Easter basket. It’s similar with fruits. Some put them in their basket, while others claim it’s unnecessary, as they don’t carry any meaning.
Unusual Easter basket stuffers
Every country and its regions have their traditions. Because of this, Easter baskets differ. There’s nothing strange about it. But some might be shocked about what others put in their Easter baskets for blessing.
The most interesting customs involve putting the following items in an Easter basket:
- notes with future plans, resolutions and dreams - blessing them is supposed to quicken their realization,
- pens - especially, if someone in the family prepares for an exam, to use them during the test.
What cannot you put in an Easter basket?
In addition to the list of products that are supposed to become Easter basket stuffers, there are also many forbidden items. They are especially important to orthodox Catholics who are very conservative about Easter celebration. The following list contains such banned items:
- electronic gadgets,
- artificial eggs.
How to decorate an Easter basket?
In accordance with some beliefs, an Easter basket should be modest. For this reason, many people pick baskets made of wicker and decorate them sparingly. The bottom is lined with a single napkin, the products are put on top of it and covered with another, more decorative, white napkin. It should be taken off during the blessing. The handle is decorated with a few branches of:
- pussy willow,
You can attach the decorations using a single-colored ribbon - typically, it’s red.
Many people give up minimalism when decorating their Easter baskets. You can try more lavish decorations such as flowers, napkins with an Easter theme and ribbon to decorate the entire basket. Modern ornaments can be made of paper, you can also add small lamb and chicks figurines.
📍 What does an Easter basket look like?
A traditional Easter basket is typically made of wicker. It should be lined with a napkin. Products symbolizing Easter are put on top. They are covered with another napkin, and the basket is decorated with boxwood, forsythia or hazel branches.
📍 What do you put in an Easter basket?
The content of an Easter basket is not a coincidence. It should contain all products connected with Christian symbolism, such as: bread, horseradish, butter, a lamb, a cake, eggs, vinegar, salt, cured meat, cheese. These products are blessed in Catholic and Orthodox churches.
📍 How to decorate an Easter basket?
Basic Easter basket decorations can be made of boxwood, forsythia or hazel branches. One can also use bows - in a single red color. But a modern Easter basket looks a bit different - it's more decorative. It is decorated with flowers and artificial Easter-themed ornaments.
📍 When do you bless an Easter basket?
Easter basket blessing is performed always on the same day - Holy Saturday. In Eastern European countries, it's done in front of churches or by local shrines.