I say, “Easter.” You say, “Egg.”

Have you ever wondered why eggs are the unofficial food mascot for Easter? Or why you prepare an Easter dinner of baked ham or rack of lamb? Many Easter culinary traditions stem from historic religious and non-religious beginnings and are still found in Easter celebrations today.

Eggs on Easter–we hunt them in backyards; we dye them pink and yellow and green and blue; we hard-boil them and serve them deviled or baked into traditional dishes. It’s safe to say that Easter would not be Easter without the egg. In nature, eggs are a springtime reminder of rebirth and new life, and for Christians, a symbol of the Resurrection story. Even some of our favorite Easter candies like jelly beans and chocolates are crafted to resemble the shape of the egg. In the late 1800s, Tsar Alexander III gifted his wife the first of many elaborate, decorative Easter eggs that would later become valuable works of art–FabergĂ© eggs. With deviled eggs on Easter Sunday and egg salad sandwiches for the week after, there’s no need to let those dyed eggs go to waste!

Photo courtesy of PinchMySalt.com

Is ham on the dinner menu for your family or your restaurant on Easter? If so, you’re carrying on a tradition that dates back to the early settlers. Because meat was slaughtered in the fall, and there weren’t any refrigerators around, pork that wasn’t eaten prior to the Lenten season was cured. The curing process could take quite some time and the hams were ready right about the time Easter arrived, making this meat the likely choice for the holiday meal. The ham can be cured and served many different ways–dry-cured with a mix of salt and sugar, or molasses and black pepper, with saltpeter to reduce spoilage, or brined with a liquid salt and sugar mixture. A ham can then be smoked, steamed or boiled before it makes it to the Easter dinner table, and served with a brown sugar or honey glaze to make it absolutely delectable.

If you’re not serving ham on Easter, perhaps your meal includes a rack of lamb. Lambs have been sacrificed as religious rituals for thousands of years and are often a menu-favorite for Easter and Passover meals. Traditionally, Christians associate the sacrifice of the lamb with Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, while Jews historically observed Passover by sacrificing a lamb during the course of the festival. Herb-marinated, mint-crusted or smoked, a rack of lamb represents the ultimate holiday feast.

What are some of your Easter cooking traditions? Share them with us on Facebook!