One new thing Father D. started last year was the Easter Basket Blessing. The girls and I had lovingly bought all the things we wanted to put in it and were sitting in the kitchen coloring eggs when my mother called to tell me that an arsonist had set fire to St. Anne's in my hometown. Hopefully, this year's Easter Basket Blessing day (tomorrow) will be a lot less eventful. By the way, the Easter basket in that photograph is not our Easter basket, although you can see the same elements: ham, bread, cream cheese, etc. But look at those gorgeous, hand-painted eggs! And I have a feeling that bread didn't come from a store.
Here's an article I found online titled "How to Put Together a Traditional Easter Basket" by Fr. Hal Stockert about the Easter baskets of the Slovic, German and Greek Catholics. Father D. sent this out as a little flyer in our bulletins. Below is the list of the things we're putting in our Easter basket and their symbolism.
ham -- This meat symbolizes our freedom from the Law of Moses, which forbid the eating of pork.
eggs -- European people traditionally gave up dairy products and meat for the duration of Lent -- ouch! -- and so eggs were abundant at Easter. Martha Stewart did this great segment on her show a few years ago, demonstrating how to dye eggs with onion skins, which is apparently a Polish tradition. I know that sounds awful, but onion skins turn the hard-cooked eggs an absolutely lovely golden color. Anyway, we're just using the traditional Paas dyes. In fact, I'm typing this post while we're waiting for all the little colored tablets to dissolve.
bread -- We bought hot cross buns at Panera this morning (and believe me, they weren't one a penny, two a penny). The hot cross buns will take the place of the sweet loaf I made last year, which everyone refused to eat. But anyway, the buns are rich with eggs and dried fruit (strawberries and orange peel, or so said their little label inside Panera's bakery case) and they are included in the Easter basket to remind us that Christ is our True Bread.
salt -- Salt is a condiment, much prized throughout the world when Christians first started assembling Easter baskets, and it reminds us of our duty to flavor the world and make it better by our presence.
cheese -- We bought a tub of cinnamon cream cheese which I'll form into a ball and put on a pretty plate covered with plastic wrap. The purpose of the cheese is to provide a food that is bland yet sweet, and is intended to remind Christians that we are to be moderate in all things. (I think that maybe the cream cheese of the Slovak, German and Greek Christians wasn't as good as ours.)
wine -- Red wine reminds us of the Blood of Christ, shed to cover our sins.
candle -- Jesus is the Light of the world. We bought a nice Sacred Heart holy candle at the grocery in the section where Hispanic foods are sold.
The only thing we don't have is a traditional basket cover which Fr. Stockart's article says is usually "intricately embroidered" with various Resurrection themes. I don't trust myself on the "intricate" part, but I used to be a real whiz at cross-stitching, so I wonder if maybe I could come up with something for next year? Hmmm...
Tomorrow at 1:30, then, we'll be at the church with Aisling lugging the basket (as the youngest child, she gets this honor) for our second Easter Basket Blessing at our parish.