As part of our series examining international food traditions related to celebrations and important holidays, today we take a look at traditional Easter foods from around the world.
It’s almost time for the Easter Bunny to make his rounds for this year! In North America, Easter celebrations tend to include colorful eggs – whether they’re the chocolate variety or regular eggs dipped in food coloring at home. Why are eggs such a big part of our Easter traditions? And what foods do other cultures include in their Easter celebrations? Let’s find out!
Traditional Easter Foods from Across the Globe
Eggs are a big part of Easter celebrations in many places throughout the world. Why? There are a couple of historical reasons. First, eggs are a symbol of fertility and rebirth. Since Easter is a Christian celebration of Christ’s resurrection, eggs have been an important Easter symbol for a very long time.
Eggs (along with meat and dairy) were also at one time forbidden during the Christian season of Lent, which ends on Easter. Since Easter marked the first opportunity to eat eggs after a period of relative deprivation, they became an important symbol of the day and its celebration. Western churches have discontinued the requirement to give up meat, eggs, and dairy during Lent, but it is still common in Eastern Orthodox churches.
Why do we decorate eggs? In Eastern Orthodox churches, eggs may may be decorated with intricate patterns and symbols that convey important meanings. For example, circles represent eternity, flowers indicate love, and various animals represent fertility.
In North America, chocolate eggs have overtaken the real thing as part of our Easter celebrations, but in many cultures around the world, real eggs are still an important part of any Easter gathering.
Now that we’ve got eggs out of the way, let’s look at other important Easter foods.
- In North America, Easter dinners often include ham. This may be because cured meats like ham would have been the first meats available in the spring (having cured over the winter) before refrigeration became common.
- In Europe, most Easter dinners include lamb. This tradition comes from the Jewish Passover meal, which included a sacrificial lamb.
- In Scandinavian countries, fish is the most important Easter dish – especially pickled or marinated herring.
- Hot cross buns are a popular Easter treat in many parts of the world, especially the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. These sweet buns are marked with an icing cross.
- Russians make paskha, a type of cheesecake molded into a pyramid and decorated with religious symbols, which they put in their Easter baskets and take to church for a blessing.
- In many Eastern European countries, paskha is eaten with kulick, a sweet bread similar to German stollen or Italian panettone.
- Speaking of panettone, Italians make a similar sweet bread at Easter, but it’s made in the shape of a dove. This special Easter version, which is topped with sugar and almonds, is called columba di Pasqua.
- Chocolate eggs and rabbits are very popular in North America. Chocolate eggs are also popular in other parts of the world.
- In Spain, Monas de Pasqua are elaborate chocolate figures made at Easter-time.
- In Norway, you can find a special beer at Easter – Paskelbrygg.
The Bottom Line
Because it is a time of celebration – and it follows the austerity of Lent – Easter involves rich, celebratory foods and treats. When shopping for your Easter eggs, keep in mind that many eggs sold in grocery stores have more sugar and food dye than chocolate.
Tell us: What are the Easter food traditions in your household? Let us know in the comments.
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Christina Newberry is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in national and local magazines and newspapers. With a Bachelor’s degree in English and Anthropology from the University of Victoria and a Journalism Certificate from Langara College, Christina brings keen curiosity and the love of a good story to her work with HealthCastle.com.
Christina is a passionate traveler and urban gardener with an interest in vegetarian eating and making good, tasty food from scratch. Sharing lessons learned from her own experiences, Christina writes about lifestyle topics for HealthCastle, with a focus on eating well at home and on the road.