For those of us who grew up celebrating Easter, we have in common the memories of the yearly Easter Egg Hunt where we would join herds of children in the search for the coveted chocolate Easter eggs. We all ran around with our little baskets, smiling ear to ear whenever we found a little oval shaped chocolate in the grass or on a bookshelf. Then, after collecting all of our treats, we ate them all until we felt sick and even then maybe one or two more. Then we would all sit down for dinner at the end of the day and crack open our multi-coloured hard-boiled eggs. But have you ever wondered where these traditions come from? Why do we paint eggs or eat lamb during Easter? I’ve put together a list of the three most common traditional Easter foods and the explanation of why they’ve become traditional in the first place.
1. Colourful Hard-Boiled Eggs
Hard-boiled eggs are an Easter staple around the world. Some cultures break the eggs ceremoniously at the table, while other cultures do not, but without fail they will be present on most tables. Have you ever wondered why we eat eggs during Easter? It’s not like the Easter Bunny lays them, and there is no such thing as an Easter Chicken. Well, the story behind why eggs are eaten during Easter goes back to ancient religions and cultures such as the Egyptians and the Hindus. They all held the belief that the world began with an enormous egg, which made the egg a symbol for new life. Most cultures still use the egg as a symbol of new life and rebirth, which is synonymous with Easter. The tradition of colourful eggs is a little trickier because there are only theories as to why we began doing this, but the most common theory is that Christians started dying their eggs red as a symbol of the blood of Christ, which later ended up becoming a mostly forgotten tradition that has evolved into dying eggs other colours as well.
Lamb is yet another extremely popular traditional Easter meal because it has very strong religious symbolism. Before Easter even existed, Jewish people celebrated the first Passover by sacrificing a lamb, roasting it and eating it, in hopes that the angel of God would pass over their homes and bring them no harm. As Hebrews converted over to Christianity, they brought along their traditions and, as Christians often refer to Jesus as The Lamb of God, the traditions merged. Now the types of seasoning and the different ways of cooking lamb have varied over the years, but the tradition remains.
Lastly, ham is also a traditional Easter food but not in every culture. Mostly popular in North America and parts of Europe, ham became a tradition not because of religious reasons but for economical ones. In the early days, meat was slaughtered in the fall and, since there was no refrigeration, the fresh pork that was not eaten during the winter months before Lent, was cured for spring. The curing process takes a long time so the first hams were ready around the time that Easter rolled around. Therefore, ham was a natural choice for a celebratory Easter dinner.
There are many different traditions and foods around the world that are eaten during Easter but these are the three most popular ones in the Western world. What are some meals that your family eats during Easter?