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  • Writer's pictureFr. Scott Haynes

Traditions of the Easter Basket

Fr. Scott Haynes

In the midst of the ceremonies and liturgies of the Paschal season, we have the blessing of Easter foods. These baskets of Easter foods are foods from which we've been fasting during Lent. There are several foods traditionally included in the basket. What are some of these? Traditionally these have been

·       Sweet bread & bitter herb

·       Wine & cheese

·       Lamb & butter

·       Salt & eggs

Each has symbolic significance.

Sweet bread is always included, leavened with yeast. The yeast is a reminder of the resurrection. This is why the Eastern Catholics use leavened bread in the celebration of the Eucharist. The bread is often braided in three strands to symbolize the Trinity.

The bitter herb, often horseradish or garlic, serves as a reminder of the first Passover. It is also brings to mind the forty years that the Jews wandered in the wilderness. Recall that horseradish is eaten as a traditional part of the original Passover meal. In our Easter celebration, these bitter herbs recall the bitter sufferings that Christ endured for our sake. Sometimes the herb is colored red with beets, symbolizing the Blood of Christ.

Wine, cheese, and butter are figurative of the richness of life while Salt serves as a reminder to us that we are "the salt of the earth." 

Eggs are included in the basket because these are 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.

According to tradition, during a dinner with the emperor Tiberius Caesar, Mary Magdalene was speaking about Christ's Resurrection. Caesar scoffed at her, saying that a man could no more rise from the dead than the egg that she held in her hand could turn red. Immediately, the egg turned red – a miracle. Because of this, icons of Mary Magdalene often depict her holding a red egg. 

Lamb is symbolic of the sacrifice of the Old Testament Passover, which has been replaced by Christ, the New Passover and Lamb of God. As the final Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7-8), Jesus entered Jerusalem on the 10th of Nisan, the same day when the Passover Lamb was brought into the Jewish home.

The night before Good Friday He was examined by Pilate and was found without fault, thus fulfilling the requirements of the Passover Lamb being a "male without defect." On Good Friday, the day of the Passover celebration, Jesus was crucified (John 19:14). At around 3:00 pm, Jesus said, "It is finished" and died. This was the exact time when the Passover Lamb was to be slaughtered in the Temple.

Further, when the lamb was roasted and eaten, the Mosaic Law prescribed that none of its bones were to be broken. This was prophesized for the Messiah also, whose bones were not to be broken (Psalms 34:20).

Now it was customary for the Roman soldiers to break the leg bones of the crucified person after a few hours in order to hasten their death. The only way a person could breathe when hanging on a cross was to push up with his legs. By breaking the legs, the person could no longer push up to breathe and death soon followed. However, they did not break Jesus' bones since He was already dead. Thus, the prophecy was fulfilled that not one of his bones would be broken.

Thus, each of the foods in the Easter basket has rich meaning. Once blessed, they are sacramentals – holy reminders of our faith in Jesus Christ who is the true Passover lamb, who takes away the sins of the world.



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