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Traditional Paschal Basket -- By Father Robert E Lucas

How To Put Together A Traditional Paschal Basket


Among the Slavic people, especially the Carpatho Rusyns, the custom of preparing and bringing a Paschal basket to church on the Sunday of the Resurrection is an age old tradition. It stems from the desire of the Christian community to ask God's blessings on the foods that break the Great Fast and from which they have abstained during this forty day preparation period. The spiritual significance attached to the foods eaten are symbolic of Christ Himself, our true Passover, alluding as they do to various events in His teaching ministry which culminated in His glorious Resurrection.


The prohibition of particular foods during the Great Fast, namely meat and dairy products naturally become the main staple during the festive time of the Resurrection celebration. We have here listed the articles of food traditionally placed in a basket and brought to church for Resurrection matins after which solemn the blessing takes place.


The food is then taken home and after the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, when we have nourished ourselves first on the Body and Blood of the Risen Saviour, the entire believing family gathers and enjoys these nourishing reminders of our victory in Christ as they three times sing the Resurrection anthem.


It should be noted that unless you have abstained from these foods during the Great Fast, and particularly Great and Holy Week, as prescribed by our Orthodox Church, they will not naturally assume a more palatable taste in response to our spiritual preparation to enjoy them.

Pascha Is the traditional Resurrection bread. It Is a sweet yeast bread rich in eggs, butter, sugar, etc.. Symbolic of the Risen Christ Himself, Who Is our true nourishment and bread, it Is usually a round loaf baked with a golden crust decorated ornately with a symbol indicative of the Risen Christ. Sometimes a simple cross + is placed on top encircled by a plait giving it a crowned effect which symbolizes there is no victory without first assuming the rigors of the Cross. At times abbreviations for the name of Christ, namely IXC, XP, IC XC or X B which represent in Greek Christ and Christ is Risen respectively, are made of rolled dough and placed across the top.

Ham is the flesh-meat popular with the Slavs as the main dish particularly because of Its richness in flavor and symbolic of the great joy of abundance at the Resurrection, while some prefer veal, lamb. These are usually well roasted or cooked In advance along with other meats so that the spiritual festivity of the day will not be an undue burden with preparation so all in the family may enjoy the feast day.

Sausage or Kolbasi which Is a spicy, garlic­flavored sausage of pork products and is indicative of God's favor and generosity. It may or may not be smoked

Bacon is usually included after being cured and smoked. It may be spiced and is symbolic of the overabundance of God's mercy on us.

Cheese made In a variety of ways, but primarily in a ball shape having a rather bland but sweet taste indicative of the moderation that Christians should have In all things. The cheese may be decorated with a cross out of cloves or pepper balls.

Horseradish is grated and mixed with grated red beets and is symbolic of the Passion of Christ still in our minds but sweetened with some sugar because of the Resurrection victory. The bitter sweet red colored mixture reminds us of the suffering of Christ.

Butter is many times specially made from heavy cream for this feast and shaped Into a figure of a lamb or small cross and decorated festively. It Is reminiscent of God's bounty in providing for us through the goodness of Christ.

Salt is the condiment necessary to flavor our food and reminds us of our responsibility to "flavor" life about us with the values and teachings of the Risen Saviour.

Eggs or pisanki in Carpatho Rusyn, are hard-boiled brightly decorated with symbols of the Resurrection by marking in beeswax. They are indicative of the new life we now have in Christ's victory over death.


In some places a large Pascha is made and brought to be blessed separately wrapped in a large specially prepared ornately decorated linen cloth. if the origin of the people was from a wine-growing area, sweet wine was often included.

These articles are placed in a sizable wicker basket and a light colored or pastel ribbon Is tied to the handle. A decorated candle Is included In the basket along with the foods and Is lighted at the time of the blessing and during the Resurrection meal. A linen covering usually embroidered with the Resurrection of Christ or with symbols or words, "Christ Is Risen!" Is placed over the food basket as a protective and decorative cover when it is brought to be blessed.



3 c. milk, scalded                       1/2 c, sugar

1/2 Tbs.. salt                             1 c. melted butter

6 eggs, beaten                            1/2 large cake yeast

1/2 c, lukewarm water                12-14 c, flour

In a large bowl, combine milk, sugar, salt, butter & cool to lukewarm. Save 2 Tbsp, of the eggs and add the rest to the milk mixture. Crumble yeast in water and let stand for 10 minutes, Add to above mixture. Add flour, about 2 cups at a time, until dough can be handled. Knead on floured board for 15 minutes. Place ball of dough in greased bowl, grease top and let rise for 1 1/2 hours. Knead again and let rise a second time for 45 minutes, After second rising, shape into 4 loaves. Place in greased 2 quart round pans. Let rise for 45 minutes. Brush with beaten egg. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour. Yield 4 large loaves.

PASCHA (Very rich dough)

1 cup butter softened                 8 cups flour

1 cup sugar                               1 ounce compressed yeast

4 eggs                                       1 pint lukewarm milk

1 teaspoon salt                          Rind of 1/2 Lemon, grated

Crumble yeast into bowl and add milk and 1 cup flour. Set aside to rise in warm place. Cream butter. Add sugar and eggs and mix well. Add remaining flour and yeast mixture alternately. Mix well, adding only enough flour to knead. Knead until dough is smooth and elastic. Set aside in warm place until doubled in bulk. Form into desired shapes. Allow dough to rise again in pans and bake at 350 degrees.


1 dozen eggs

1 quart milk

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Beat eggs. Add milk, sugar and vanilla and beat well. Cook in double boiler until mixture curds and only water remains. Pour into a cloth sack, squeeze and tie tightly. Place on flat surface and add weight on top for several hours for a loaf type or else hang up to drain for a round shape. (About 2 hours) Carefully remove cheese from cheesecloth and refrigerate.


2 to 2 1/2 lbs. dry (farmers) cottage cheese

1/2 to 3/4 c. sugar

6 whole eggs

Mash cheese with a fork. Add sugar and mix well with cheese, Beat eggs and pour into cheese. Blend all together and pour into buttered glass baking dish. Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees.


6 medium size beets (about 2 lbs.)

1/4 c. vinegar

2 Tbsp. salt

1 c. grated horseradish ( 1 medium size root )

1/3 c. sugar

Cook beets, cool and grind and mix all ingredients together.       Refrigerate,


Note: Canned beets may be used. If sweeter taste is desired, add more beets and sugar.


5 lbs. pork butts

2 pieces garlic, chopped fine

2 tablespoons salt

1 teaspoon pepper

Casings, rinsed.

Grind meat in coarse grinder and mix well with other ingredients.  Have casings clean and stuff them with meat mixture.  If desired, smoke with fruit wood slowly for approximately six hours.

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