The Easter Basket Tradition

By Ana Borden

While living in Chicago, I learned more about our Catholic faith and its traditions than I ever anticipated, living in the largest archdiocese in the country and from new friends with worldwide connections.

One of those special, lifelong friends I made was Ewa, a deeply devout Roman Catholic of Lithuanian descent. She was born and raised in Poland and experienced communism and the segregation of faith before immigrating to the USA.

She and her mother taught me about the traditional blessing of the Easter food baskets in Eastern Europe for which I was unaware. It’s a tradition that spans centuries and is believed to be the origin of the Easter basket tradition that children today enjoy.

On Holy Saturday, families line their basket with a linen or embroidered cloth – representing the shroud of Christ – along with the staple foods that will be used to create their Easter day meals. The Polish also include dried flowers and colorful, handmade papers in the shape of palms.

Each staple in the basket has a symbolic meaning that includes butter, bacon, eggs, salt, cakes, ham and cheese. Of all of the ingredients she mentioned, the tradition of shaping butter into a lamb and coloring eggs with natural ingredients such as turmeric and red onions, most impressed me.

After preparing the basket, families visit their local church at night – lit with candles – seeking blessings over the food they will prepare and enjoy Easter Sunday after their time of fasting.

Not only has this tradition opened my eyes to customs celebrated around the world, but it has taught me to not only question but seek answers in everyday traditions to understand and appreciate their significant, and often religious, origin.

What traditions does your family enjoy during Easter?

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