The Easter holiday brings attention to a lot of different foods, with the egg sitting at the top of the list. Egg hunts - though it must be admitted that plastic eggs filled with candy are far more predominant now than the hard boiled kind - are a staple of the Easter season, but they are far from the only food associated with the holiday.
Spring and the return of warm weather, as is true of the winter solstice, the year's shortest days, has been a time of celebration by many, many cultures around the world, and the foods associated with the season reflect that.
Many aspects of the celebration and many of the foods associated with Easter go back to pre-Christian times, as is the case with hot cross buns, which allegedly are derived from ancient Anglo-Saxons who baked small wheat cakes in honor of the springtime goddess, Eostre. The egg and rabbit associated with the holiday also were ancient symbols of fertility. The fertility gods and goddesses of numerous cultures were most often celebrated in spring when nature is at its most prolific.
The roast lamb dinner that many eat on Easter Sunday goes back to the Passover celebration of the Jewish people, celebrating Israel's release from slavery in ancient Egypt some 4,500 years ago. In preparation for the Exodus from Egypt, the sacrificial lamb was roasted and eaten, together with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, in hopes that the destroying angel of God who was killing all the firstborn children of the land in the last of the Ten Plagues, would "pass over" their homes and spare their children.
As Hebrews converted to Christianity in the first century, they brought along many of their traditions with them, and the Passover lamb became associated with Jesus, who Christians refer to as the Lamb of God.
The traditional Easter ham in the United States goes back to earlier times when meat was slaughtered in the fall. Without refrigeration, a lot of meat was preserved by curing, a process that takes time but that would have been completed by the time Easter came around, making ham the meat of choice for an Easter dinner.
So, whether you are enjoying a home cooked ham with family or eating roast lamb at one of the many fine restaurants in our area, you're part of a long tradition of food associated with the Easter season.