Easter Baskets

I grew up in a secular home, but none-the-less, we had Easter Baskets filled with candies and gifts on Easter morning. Now, my Dad's side of the family, being from eastern Europe and being either Orthodox or Greek Catholic I can see how we might still have residual baskets in our home.

But Easter baskets are EVERYWHERE here in America! Is there any sort of western tradition of Easter Baskets? Traditionally, Orthodox Christians prepare a feast full of fast-breaking foods and placed into a large basket which is brought to church and blessed along with everyone elses' baskets. I wonder, do the French (for example) have Easter baskets? Or the English? Do or did Roman Catholics ever have a tradition like this (I've never heard of it, if so)? perhaps they used to and do not do it anymore?

I ask, because it makes me wonder if perhaps here in America the Easter Basket craze was actually adapted from our Orthodox immigrants over the last century or so? Anyone know?


Anonymous said…
I would also wonder if it was ever a Roman Catholic tradition, as they did share our fasting guidelines at one point.
emily said…
I don't have a real succint answer, but it came up on Orthodox Chat recently, and there might be some ideas you'd want to use:

Meg said…
I didn't realize you were cradle Orthodox! Well, I grew up in a strict Irish/Polish Roman Catholic household, and I can tell you that every kid in the neighborhood had an Easter basket. You put chocolate bunnies in 'em -- ours were quite large -- and a lot of that crinkly paper "grass," and then chocolate eggs (and real eggs) were strewn around the basket.

Also, having lived in Germany, yes, they also have baskets, though not as chocolaty as ours.

Interestingly, the Poles also bring their Easter baskets to church to be blessed, a custom I encountered nowhere else until becoming Orthodox (and then only in the Russian tradition -- I always have to ask the Greek priests to do it). My stepgrandmother would fill hers with red eggs, homemade kielbasa and horseradish, a big babka, and butter; I still prepare mine in this way.

This year I get to prepare Paschal food for my Russian class, though I won't have it blessed. I'll still have the (unblessed) red eggs, paskha, kulich, and kolbassa.
fdj said…
I didn't realize you were cradle Orthodox!

I'm not...but I SHOULD have been. Orthodoxy skipped a generation and it was only after God led me to the Church did I come to learn I should have ALWAYS been in it. Now reaquainting myself with long lost Orthodox relatives.

I thought the baskets being brought to Church was pretty universal to Orthodox...but clearly not. Perhaps it is predominantly a slavic tradition?

I think its safe to assume that the American tradition of baskets did not come from slavic immigrants.
Anonymous said…
Some Catholics did at one time. The Irish used to carry covered baskets or small barrels to church with oak smoked fish to be blessed for Passover and again at Easter, but that was actually inspired by a pre-Christian practice (pagan priests would smoke fish with wood chips in their temples and at their shrines, and place them in baskets or barrels to burn as offerings). I've heard before the same practice (though with various different things in the basket or barrel) occured in many parts of Europe due to the iron age Celtic cultural spread; it may have then survived more as a local affair in certain regions of western Europe (since traditions could vary widely by region).

I also asked my grandfather (a very old Irishman from Inishmor, a particularly traditional region) what they did when he was a boy (I've not studied much of early modern Ireland, and he never talked much unless goded), and he said, when he was a boy, some fishermen still did that, though the practice is dead now, I think (I lived in the Aran Islands for 8 years and I don't think I've ever seen anyone do that).

However, I may point out here that old Irish church traditions weren't far divorced from Orthodox traditions, because the Irish, like the remnant of the Roman Empire, didn't have to deal with barbarian invasions. As such, the two traded a great deal, mostly in books, though some advisors and the like exchanged as well (a number of emperors had Irish priests as aides or spiritual advisors, and it was a Greek fellow who helped Brian Boru and Mael Sechnaill come to an agreement that Brian would be king of the island, with Mael Sechnaill as the tanist {an elected or selected (by a third party) heir}).

Perhaps then the Irish simply brought in traditions then; they certainly brought in a great deal of Greek literature, philosophy, and poetry and other bits and pieces of culture, and the early medieval Irish weren't actually 'Catholic' in the strictest sense, but were more rather floating in the ether, as it was; the Irish church was loyal to a pact with Rome, and allowed Roman envoys in (though no papal envoys for a long time; not out of spite or anything, but because the Pope never bothered to send any since the time of St. Palladius, until the Crusades were requested, and then were preached in Ireland with the support of the aristocracy), but made no move to submit itself to the Pope until into the early-high middle ages. It was actually more driven by the monastaries, religiously, because the monastaries mostly maintained what churches and such there were, and was further enforced when Brian Boru (who the Catholic Church did recognize as 'Scotorum Imperator' officially; Emperor of the Irish; however, the Byzantines recognized it too, in no small part because they helped settle the argument that made him overlord of the Irish kingdoms) gave the abbotts a tithe then a massive charity, and personally gave a payment of gold to the abbott at Ard Macha (Armagh) to support and encourage the position of the Ardruire (High King).

However, that was before any of the major division. After it, however, Ireland remained fairly neutral in dealing with either the Roman or Orthodox Church, in part due to the need to solidify the position of kingship. However, when the crusades were called for, a few of the Irish chiefs sent soldiers because it was, in the First Crusade at least, intended to the benefit of the Byzantines, but was requested by the Pope (so the Irish really didn't need to involve themselves in any argument, as far as they could see). Ireland's relation with Rome expanded in this time and it officially joined the Roman church, due to the increase contact with the papacy and the monastaries in Ireland.

That is a lot of time though (the early dark ages to the crusades; sorry that took so long) for the Irish to absorb at least a few cultural traditions. It's notable that the Irish prefered Greek to Latin (since it was necessary for a well-educated man to read books untranslated from Greek {having that ability was a status symbol}, though Ireland was the first source of Vulgar Literature in northern Europe, and had a surprisingly literate population), and maintained cordial relations with the Byzantines up to the sack of Constantinople, and even to some vague extent afterward.

Sorry if that dragged on too long; I'm a medieval Irish historian and tend to babble when I can.
fdj said…
Fascinating Anthony...please, feel free to babble ANYTIME.

Since I have you here, I've asked a friend of mine who is relatively well versed in Celtic (and other related languages) about how to pronounce this name (He's pretty sure it is actually Welsh):


Any thoughts?
Thomas Ham said…
Was not aware that you had some sort of knowledge of the Church before you became Orthodox... Or at least family that was Orthodox. I have southern baptist blood!

I didn't think there would be Easter Baskets in the Orthodox tradition... But, Presbytera Catherine Trenham was telling me that she was threatening her kids of taking stuff out of the Pascha Baskets (the name kind of made me giggle) if they didn't behave. =) Hope you're doing well. 1 1/2 weeks left until...
Anonymous said…
Ardwyad is at least Brythonic (Gaelic languages don't have the letter Y or W in most cases), and most likely Welsh. It'd be 'Ard-oo-ath', 'Ard-ee-ad', or 'Ard-oo-tath', I think, though my Welsh is wretched.

Modern Celtic languages are divided into two families, that are only related by their root in the Celtic lingual super-family. They are P-Celtic (Brythonic; Welsh, Cornish, Bretonic, and a myriad of dead languages), and Q-Celtic (Goidilic/Goedelic/Gaelic; Irish, Scottish {which is loosely called Gaelic}, Manx {heavily Norse influenced, but still Gaelic}, and some dead languages on the continent). There's also the totally dead continental family, sometimes called K-Celtic, since their languages actually have K in them, absorbed from dealing with the Greeks (they did write, just very little; the pagan Celts believed that writing dulled the memory, so avoided it when they could). Those would be languages like Lepontic, Gallic, Helvetian, Galatian (a form of Gallic, actually), and the language of the pagan southern Britons before the Romans came, as well as 'Ivernian', the longest living 'Continental' language, which was actually a local language in Munster for some centuries, but eventually faded out. The languages within the family bare great similarity, but between families are nearly impossible to relate, except for loan words or copies (like 'Brehon' in both Gaelic and Continental languages, means Judge).

Back to the name;

Ardwyad is most likely Welsh if it's a modern name. Cornish it'd be something like 'Ardotad'. Gaelic would be closer to 'Artagh' or 'Artann' or some variant thereof (though that name is pretty dated and probably not in use). The Gallic would probably be like Artannos or Erdannos.

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