Easter, or Paskha, is the most important feast of the Orthodox Church. Orthodox Easter is a joyous celebration of the resurrection of Christ and many religious and secular traditions surround this sacred holiday.
The essential part of celebrating the feast is giving traditional Easter baskets to family members, friends and other significant people in our lives. Although buying ready-made Easter hampers online might be the easiest, some people still prefer to make traditional Easter baskets on their own. For those creative here are some simple tips on how to put together a traditional Easter gift to Russia for your dear ones.
Traditional Easter Baskets: History
The traditional Easter basket has its roots in Pennsylvania Dutch and Eastern Orthodox Christian customs of setting out bonnets stuffed with dry grass, and filing them with colored, hard-boiled eggs, and in some cases, various meats or candy. The idea of filling baskets with foods prohibited during the Lenten Fast evolved into the practice of filling Easter baskets with treats and goodies. Traditional Russian Easter baskets now include all the foods usually served during Easter, especially those that were abstained from during Lent, each item representing a religious aspect of the holiday.
Step 1: Choose your basket
A traditional Orthodox Easter basket makes a great gift for the host of an Easter get-together, or a distinctive centerpiece for a gathering in your own home. To put together an Easter basket, you will need an appropriate container that can adequately fit whatever goodies you wish to put into it. Keepsake wicker hampers are traditionally used for Easter gifts. Once you have chosen your basket, line it with white or pastel color cloth, which will be tied over the top later on.
Start placing larger items first. The Easter bread (pascha), a beautiful, golden loaf of wheaten bread, is the centerpiece of the basket. Pascha is usually round and decorated with a cross or a braided crown symbolizing the Biblical notion that Jesus is the Bread of Life. Next, add a bottle of red wine, which symbolizes the Eucharist, the cheese, and the meats, representing the richness and bounty of Easter’s blessings.
Start positioning smaller items around the larger ones. First, place colored eggs (pisanki), symbolizing new life and resurrection, followed by sweets, suggesting the promise of eternal life or good things to come, and butter to represent the abundance and cheer of the holiday. Traditionally, horseradish is also included to symbolize the bitterness of Christ’s suffering.
Step 3: Decorate your basket
When all the food articles are placed in the basket you can tie the white cloth over the top. Then place a candle in the basket (to light during the blessing of the basket before the meal) and tuck it into a corner of your tied cloth so it stands up above the basket’s edge. During the blessing of the foods, the cover is taken off the basket to display the foods and a white candle is lit as a symbol of the Light of Christ.
Celebrate spring and send best wishes to the important people in your life with wonderful Easter gift baskets to Russia, CIS and around the world!