Thursday, March 24, 2005

Religion & Food: Easter Foods

Easter foods are primarily those of Easter Sunday, the day on which Jesus rose from the dead, a day of special rejoicing for Christians, who rejoice too at reaching the end of the long Lenten fast. This time also marks the beginning of spring, the season of renewal, and a cause for general rejoicing. The concept of renewal/rebirth is responsible for the important role played the by egg in Easter celebrations, a role which no doubt antedates Christianity...

In Europe, there is a general tradition, not confined to Christians, that Easter is the time to start eating the season's new lamb, which is just coming onto the market then. For Christians there is the added symbolic significance that Jesus is regarded as the lamb of God. In Britain, a leg, shoulder, or saddle is roasted at this time and served with new potatoes and mint sauce. For the French, a roast leg of lamb, the gigot pascal (pascal and the English paschal refer equally to the Jewish Passover and Christian Easter), is the traditional Easter Sunday lunch. In Italy, too, and Greece baby lamb or kid, plainly roasted, is a favourite Easter dish.

Easter breads, cakes, and biscuits are a major category of Easter foods, perhaps especially noticeable in the predominantly roman Catholic countries of S. and C. Europe (and in E. Europe where the influence of the Greek and Russian Orthodox churches hold sway), but prominent too in N. Europe and in Christian countries or communities outside Europe. Traditional breads are laden with symbolism in their shapes, which may make reference to Christian faith -- crosses, fish, and lambs -- or be relics from pagan practices -- hares, eggs, and the cylinder shapes of E. European breads. In general they are not as rich as the Christmas breads, using less butter, sugar, and fruit, although eggs are freely used.

No mention here of the Easter basket which I suppose isn't technically an Easter food but is something that we eat at Easter! I have had to resort to providing an extra bowl of jellybeans, chocolate eggs, and malted milk eggs to keep dinner guests out of the girls' Easter baskets (which they still insist on even in their teenage years ... and who can blame them).

No comments: