Easter Recipes

Easter recipes bring tradition to the table. Every spring, people around the world sit down for a meal on that special Sunday, the day marking the Christian holiday of Easter. When is Easter is often a question because it is a moveable feast, and because the date is diiferent between the Eastern Orthodox and Western Christian calendar. It normally falls sometime in March or April for both calendars. Whether the holiday falls early in March or follows in April, families and friends will always gather together to enjoy a special meal of traditional Easter foods, look for Easter bunnies, and hunt for eggs—all while ushering in the beginning of spring.Behind each dish on the table, the ham, decorated eggs, hot cross buns, and traditional sweets, there is a story of the background and history of Easter. Even the White House joins in the celebration with the annual Easter Egg Roll, a Washington, D.C. springtime tradition.

Easter Destinations

Easter Destinations
Easter Destinations  Image: Starphysh (flickr), CC BY-SA 2.0

Many spend their Easter at home, observing the religious holiday according to their faith and feasting with family and friends. But there are wonderful destinations both close to home and more far afield that are perfect places to experience the Easter season. At the top of the list is Jerusalem, the city where the focus of the holiday occurred. This is where Christ was crucified and rose from the dead. Here you will find the Garden of Gethesame where He was arrested and the Via Dolorosa, the route He walked carrying the cross. Easter is the most important holiday in Orthodox Christianity, more important than Christmas. This is a great time to visit countries like Greece, where Easter brings out traditional music and dance in the streets, large feasts, bonfires in city and village squares, and evening services (to which all are welcome) in beautiful Byzantine churches. And, of course, the magnificent city of Rome has it's share of Easter celebrations - both festive and somber. A tradition since 1870, the famed New York City Easter Bonnet Parade down Fifth Avenue adds excitement to a vacation in the "City That Never Sleeps."

History of Easter

Easter is a holiday with pagan, Christian, and Jewish roots. The traditional celebration of Jesus Christ’s resurrection began in Jerusalem and grew from there as Christianity spread to Rome, throughout Europe, and eventually throughout the world. Today, Roman Catholics and Protestants celebrate Easter on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox. Orthodox Christians also celebrate Easter, although on a different Sunday, since they follow a different calendar. For people of all denominations, the day is filled with worship, traditional Easter foods, and family. 

Before the modern celebrations, one that came to involve wearing your Sunday best and filling the Easter baskets with candy, Christians honored the day as part of their church year, a way to mark the important day in their faith and the end of Lent, the 40-day period of prayer and repentance. Many of the elements of Easter call back to the Jewish Passover feast, itself a remembrance of the Exodus and the Jews’ escape from captivity in Egypt. The Greeks and Romans gave the name of the holiday Pascha, a nod to Passover. The name Easter comes from the Old English word for a Germanic goddess whose feast fell in the month of April.

Easter Eggs

White House Easter Egg Roll
White House Easter Egg Roll  Image: jen_rab (flickr)

A symbol of new birth and new life, Easter eggs, traditional Easter foods, joined the celebration of Easter, a holiday that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. A staple of Easter recipes, Easter eggs are often dyed bright colors. In the Ukraine, Poland, and other Eastern European countries, the tradition of intricately designed eggs grew stronger over time. As they came to the New World, immigrants brought this style of decoration with them. Today, it’s quite common to dye eggs after hard-boiling them and serve up egg salad with the Easter meal, many not thinking about the ancient connection to fertility and abundance, symbolism also seen with the Easter bunny. One of the most famous celebrations that include Easter Eggs is the annual East Egg Roll held on the lawns of the White House in Washington DC.

Easter Ham & Easter Lamb

Easter Ham & Easter Lamb
Easter Ham & Easter Lamb

The church considered Easter a movable feast since the date changes from year to year. Since the earliest Easter of celebrations, food has been an essential part of the celebrations. On many tables, the centerpiece of the meal is ham, and many Easter recipes exist for preparing the ham. In the old days, before Christians arrived in Europe, ham was a symbol of luck and good fortune. Early Christians also ate ham to distinguish themselves from other faith traditions that forbade ham and other pork products. Though not as common today, some families dine on lamb for Easter. In the Bible, Jesus was called the Lamb of God, another nod to the Passover. Lamb is also a significant food for the Jewish people who observe Passover around the same time as Easter. It was the blood of the sacrificial lamb smeared on their doors that saved their first born from the Angel of Death. The Passover Seder meal usually does not include lamb as a dish to avoid the appearance of eating the sacrificial lamb that marked the event leading to the Exous. 

Easter Breads

Easter Breads
Easter Breads

Bread, too, is one of the traditional Easter foods with deep symbolism. Many religions, including Christianity, employ bread as a symbol of their faith, of sustenance and care. Jesus is called the Bread of Life in the Gospels. For those who give up eggs and leavening during Lent, freshly baked bread is a much-missed treat to enjoy on Easter. On tables throughout England, cooks serve up hot cross buns, a tradition seen in the U.S. as well. Russian meals often feature kulich, an Easter bread flavored with butter and saffron. Other countries have their own tradition with specific Easter recipes for fresh bread. 

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