Easter: Culinary Traditions around the World
In many countries around the world, Easter holidays are marked with a loud and fun celebration. Moreover, celebrations are not limited to going to a church service. Some peoples, for example Nigerians, organize colorful Easter carnivals. A significant part of the celebration is preserving Easter culinary traditions, which are very diverse.
In Russia, there is a tradition to serve special Easter dishes on the feast days. These include kulich (Easter bread), cottage cheese paskha, and painted Easter eggs. Easter eggs is the first animal product that people consume after fasting during the Holy Week. Cooking Easter meals unites all family members who await the holiday. This is also an integral part of Easter traditions and involves not only adults but children as well. Children, for example, like painting Easter eggs. To knead dough and bake good kulich one must be skillful, thus the older generation of women shares its experience with young girls on how to bake this bread. On Easter day, people bring their Easter cakes and eggs to church where food is blessed during the service. After that, the whole family gathers at a festive table at which not only traditional Easter dishes are served, but also favorite treats of all guests.
In Ukraine, there is a custom to begin the celebration with eating a painted Easter egg called pysanka. Ever since ancient times Slavs have believed that the egg symbolizes the beginning of a new life. In Christianity, Easter eggs have become a symbol of the Resurrection of Christ. After eating a blessed egg people taste Easter cakes and other dishes that they cooked for the holiday. An interesting fact is that in the past it was rare to serve hot meals. This was because women used to attend nightlong church services and so cooked all festive dishes in advance. This way their family members and guests could eat immediately upon their return from the church. For this reason, in many Ukrainian villages people used to serve aspic, salceson, homemade sausage, or stuffed goose.
In Poland, people celebrate Easter for two days by setting a rich table and organizing special celebrations. Poles have great respect for their ancestors. That’s why the whole family, including infants and elderly people, always gets together for an Easter meal. However, the central place on the table occupies not kulich, but Easter babka, which is also made from leavened dough. Poles also serve some other traditional Easter dishes, including white sausages, rye soup, poppy-seed roulade, and cheesecake. The day after Easter is called Wet Monday. On that day boys splash girls with water in a display of affection. Girls joyfully run away from the boys. This tradition is also widely spread in western Ukraine.
In England, similar to many other countries, there is a tradition of treating people to Easter eggs. However, here ordinary boiled eggs are substituted for chocolate eggs with chocolate caramel filling. For English people Easter is actually a “sweet day.” They exchange presents, usually candy, cookies, and other sweet treats. The start of a new life is symbolized by some new clothes that the English wear for the occasion. This tradition is cherished even by her Majesty the Queen of England.
In Germany, Easter traditions are closely related to a well-known symbol of the holiday ‒ a rabbit. It is here that the cute character known far beyond the borders of the country originates. Parents prepare a special gift for their children ‒ a basket with Easter eggs and other sweet stuff, which they hide somewhere in the house on the eve of the holiday. In the morning, parents ask their children to “find sweet treats that the rabbit has hidden.”
In Austria, Easter celebrations begin at 3 p.m. sharp. Upon coming home from Mass, people gather at the table and give each other Easter rabbits that can be in the form of buns, chocolates, or stuffed toys, and Easter eggs ‒ either boiled, chocolate, or wooden. It is notable that in Austria people don’t paint boiled eggs red but only green, which symbolizes spring and hope.
In France, culinary traditions of celebrating Easter, in general, are similar to the customs of other countries. However, the main dish on the table, the highlight of the evening, so to say, is a roasted chicken. The symbol of the holiday, the ringing of which is heard throughout the country, is the Easter Bell. The bell symbolizes the continuation of life and joy.
In Italy, people traditionally have Easter breakfast in a family circle. Eggs, cottage cheese kuliches, and Casatiello (Neapolitan Easter pie made of eggs, cheese, and sausage) prevail over other dishes. Easter dinner in this country would be incomplete without roasted lamb or roasted goat’s flesh. Italian culinary traditions vary from region to region. For example, in Lazio the main Easter dish is roasted lamb with giblets, whereas the traditional dish in Friuli is Trieste-style sweet flatbread. As for the spiritual component of the holiday, residents and visitors of Rome can attend the Mass held by the Pope himself.
In the USA, a multicultural country, Easter entertainment and dishes can considerably vary from family to family. However, most Americans eat ham, potatoes, fruit salad, and vegetables on Easter day. People decorate tables with flowers, and what’s more, the Easter symbol here is a lily. A favorite traditional Easter tradition of the Americans is rolling eggs down grassy slopes. The largest Easter egg-rolling competition is held on the lawn of the White House.
In Australia, people like to celebrate Easter outside by the water. It is believed that on this day the air is particularly fresh and the water acquires healing powers. The main Easter dish for Australians is roasted lamb or chicken, and as a dessert they prefer meringue cake decorated with fruit. The symbol of the holiday in Australia is not a well-known rabbit but a cute local animal – a bilby.
In different countries traditions of celebrating Easter can vary, but there is always one thing that they have in common: the tradition of gathering at a table with loved ones in order to enjoy a delicious meals after a long Lent, to celebrate the arrival of spring, warmth, the awakening of nature, and the beginning of a new stage of life.