The food aspect of Easter is very important because what is blessed in the Easter basket is consumed and thus believed to have a direct effect on the person who eats it.
The typical Easter basket contains a paska and/or babka. Paska refers to a mildly sweet bread of braided dough, often decorated with a cross to symbolize Easter. The babka is much sweeter and often contains raisins. It is baked in a tall receptacle like a tin can yielding a column topped with a rounded head. The head is decorated with icing sugar and symbols of Easter such as XB for Christ is Risen. While some people interviewed purchased their Easter baked goods, many more said that they or a family member knew how to make them so that the paska and babka were baked at home.
Other items in the basket would be ham or, less frequently, sausage, butter, a condiment of horseradish mixed with beets, sometimes a sweet cheese paska was part of the basket, and hard-boiled eggs that would be eaten rather than used for decoration were obligatory. All food that was used to break the fast had to be blessed food, which means that even any salt that was to be used for the Easter breakfast needed to be blessed. Most Easter baskets contained a pysanka or two for decoration. The food would be displayed on an embroidered cloth or covered by one. Easter basket cloths used to be embroidered at home and some still are, although Easter basket cloths imported from Ukraine are becoming more common.
The food in the basket would be used to break the fast on Easter morning. Only blessed food was to be eaten and, because the food was blessed, any leftovers needed to be disposed of properly. Mostly this applied to the shells of the eggs that were eaten. Some people would bury these in the garden to help plants grow. Others would peel their eggs before taking them to church so that the egg shells did not need to be disposed of in a special way.
The act of Easter basket blessing is considered so important that rural clergy do their best to have at least a very brief blessing service at every church in their care for the sake of those who cannot travel to a large central place where a full celebratory Easter service is held. Modifications have also been made to accommodate climate demands. Because the Easter basket contains meat, original custom dictated that it was not to be brought into church. Thus a typical basket blessing is held outdoors, after a procession that goes three times around the church. Prairie weather does not always permit outdoor activity and so many churches do allow their parishioners to bring baskets into the church for the service and the blessing.