Easter is a time of year that is deeply connected with food traditions. We eat very specific foods only at this time of year - have you ever wondered why?
Easter is a time of year that is deeply connected with food traditions. We eat very specific foods only at this time of year – but have you ever wondered why?
Celebrating Easter is most associated with the Christian faith (although a lot of the traditions can be traced back to Pagan rituals before this where they celebrated the arrival of Spring and the equinox which occurs around the same time). This means that the majority of these traditions have religious meanings, but some have been developed over the years as a symbol of the celebration of Easter and have acquired roots of their own.
Before you tuck into all your favourite treats this year then why not give it a bit more thought, so you know how the food you’re enjoying happened to get to your plate! There?s more to this time of year than pretty pastel eggs and lots (and lots!) of chocolate with many Easter food traditions spanning back hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Although… we do love pastel eggs and chocolate, don?t get us wrong. The thing is, behind the meaning of these things is a whole lot of history, and we couldn?t help delving into the past to find out a little bit more on Easter food traditions and why we eat the treats we do at the time of year!
If you can?t wait to find out the catalysts for why we eat some of our Easter treats then we suggest this makes excellent snack-time reading. Simply pop the kettle on, put a hot cross bun in the toasted and read all about our Easter food traditions while enjoying a slice of the action itself, it feels only right?
With things like hot cross buns, Easter eggs and Simnel cake, that we only eat once a year, there are some very interesting thoughts behind their origins. Learn what they symbolise so you can inform (or slightly bore) your family over the Easter weekend.
Perhaps the most popular food associated with Easter, boiled eggs are commonly more of a decorative feature, but it is customary to have a hard (or if you prefer it soft) boiled egg for breakfast on the Easter weekend.
A long-standing symbol of fertility and new life, eggs represent the tomb in which Jesus was buried after his crucifixion. It was thought to be empty, but he was brought back to life - symbolised by the egg's ability to give life to chicks.
Over the years it has become tradition to paint emptied eggs and hang them on trees for decoration. Eggs also take the centre of Easter traditions, such as the Easter egg hunt and the Easter egg roll - a popular American past-time.
Chocolate Easter eggs are now one of the most common symbols of Easter. First created in the 19th century, the real developments in the creation of chocolate eggs came with the experiments made by the Cadbury Brothers in the 1870s.
Picking up on the tradition for decorating real eggs at Easter, the brothers (and other leading chocolatiers of the time) worked with chocolate to make it easier to melt and shape. The first decorated Easter eggs were covered with marzipan flowers and filled with sugared almonds.
Recipes to try:
The cross on top of these fruit buns is a symbol of the crucifixion - which is why they are traditionally eaten on Good Friday.
In Tudor times it's thought that fruit buns were limited to treats for special occasions - such as Easter - which is why this has become a common base for the cross, which is made with a simple flour and water mixture.
Hot cross buns that are cooked on Good Friday are said to never go mouldy throughout the year and if you split one with a friend and say 'Half for you and half for me, Between us two shall goodwill be' - the friendship will strengthen in the coming years.
Recipes to try
Get our how to make hot cross buns picture guide
There is some debate about the origins of the Simnel cake. The traditional cake is made with a layer of marzipan in the middle and on top and has 11 marzipan balls to represent the apostles - with Judas left out because of his betrayal.
It is not clear where the word Simnel originates, but this cake is a Lent-time favourite that can also be given as a treat for Mother's Day - which usually falls in the Lent period.
Recipes to try:
Often served on Easter Sunday, Lamb is referenced in quite a few Christian stories and has become linked with Easter due to the reference of Jesus being the sacrificial Lamb of God. This tasty meat is also associated with spring-time thanks to lots of lambs being born in the UK around then.
Recipes to try:
Bread has a very strong link to Christian religious ceremonies as it is said to represent the body of Christ and was served at The Last Supper. It is tradition to adapt bread recipes to suit each religious celebration and Easter bread (alongside hot cross buns) is commonly made during the Easter weekend - you will often see eggs or other festive decorations placed atop the bread to give it a twist.
We all know rabbits don't lay eggs - so where did the tradition of the Easter bunny come from? The origins of the rabbit and its association with fertility can be traced back to Pagan rituals. Over the years the legend has developed to be associated with Easter and then with the hiding of Easter eggs. Easter nests were first created for the rabbits to lay their eggs.
This one is quite obvious when you think of the Easter bunny, but carrots are also very closely associated with the Easter period. From leaving out carrots for the Easter bunny to baking cakes with carrots on top, they're also a great seasonal side for your roast lamb.
In Europe it's very common to serve soft pretzels in the Lent period from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. Pretzels are given a religious meaning as the looped bread is seen to symbolise the crossing of arms during prayer. They are also made without egg, butter, milk, meat or cheese - which historically were the common foods people avoided during the Lent period.
Recipes to try:
Soft pretzel recipe
Ham is another Easter tradition that hails back to the pre-Christian Pagan era, where it was seen to bring luck and good fortune. In the past, ham was an easier meat to get in poorer parts and at the early time of the year, it is also a popular Easter meal in America where lamb isn't a commonly-eaten meat.
And the Easter chick! This tradition obviously developed from the prominence of eggs during the Easter season. Over the years the cute face of a baby chick has become a strong symbol of Easter and can be found on top of many a cake and cupcake.