The Pascha Basket Tradition

After the midnight Paschal Liturgy, we all gather together to bless the Pascha baskets. These baskets have been carefully prepared with many of the foods from which we've been fasting for the past month and a half during Great Lent. There are several foods traditionally included in the basket. These are: a yeast bread, a bitter herb, wine, cheese, meat, butter, salt, and a red egg. Each has symbolic significance.

Sweet bread is always included, leavened with yeast. This is a symbol of the New Covenant; the Jews made unleavened bread, and we, the Children of the New Covenant, make leavened bread. Kulich is the traditional Russian bread, and Tsourekia is the traditional Greek braided bread. The braided form of this bread is a display of the Trinity.

The bitter herb, often horseradish or garlic, serves as a reminder of the first Passover (horseradish is eaten as a traditional part of the original Passover meal) and of the bitter sufferings which Christ endured for our sake. Sometimes the herb is colored red with beets, symbolizing the Blood of Christ. The bitter herb is also to bring to mind the Jews' forty years of wandering in the wilderness.

Wine, cheese, and butter are figurative of all the good things of life, and remind us of the earthly gifts that come from God.

Meat is included in remembrance of the sacrifice of the Old Testament Passover, which has been replaced by Christ, the New Passover and Lamb of God.

Salt serves as a reminder to us that we are "the salt of the earth."

The red egg is likened to the tomb from which Christ arose. This is because of the miracle of new life which comes from the egg, just as Christ miraculously came forth from the tomb.

Thus each of the foods in the Pascha basket have rich meaning, as does everything in Orthodoxy. Glory to God!

From "Children of the Church"





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