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Why ham on Easter? [split from Home Cooking]

A nice Jewish girl has a serious question - why ham on Easter (or why do Christians eat pork anyway?) Jews and Muslims adhere to almost the same dietary laws and it is highly unlikely that Jesus ate pork/ham - really curious.

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  1. In the United States, ham is a traditional Easter food. In the early days, meat was slaughtered in the fall. There was no refrigeration, and the fresh pork that wasn't consumed during the winter months before Lent was cured for spring. The curing process took a long time, and the first hams were ready around the time Easter rolled around. Thus, ham was a natural choice for the celebratory Easter dinner.


    1. Good question. I'm guessing it's because it's cheap and feeds a lot of people. Lamb makes more sense, but until recently it was very hard to come by in much of the US. Nowadays you can get chops or leg of lamb in any supermarket, but still not cheaply.

      10 Replies
      1. re: Agent Orange

        Lamb is only slaughtered now, so that's why it makes sense to me. But ham is a lot more economical for large groups as you say. Besides lots of people don't like (or think they don't like) lamb. My mother has been making lamb every year for Easter since the 50s, and luckily we never had trouble getting whatever we wanted. Actually I know someone who buys one live and does it himself, with the help of his son. In that case, I wouldn't touch it, I'd be in tears. But I do love lamb if it's from the butcher.

        I'm making veal only because I just made lamb for St Patricks Day, but I am buying a leg at the supermarket anyway, because it's $1.88/lb, it'll be nice for Memorial Day I think.

        1. re: coll

          We get lamb from our Lamb farmer/rancher in Spring and Fall.

          1. re: Bryn

            Spring lamb is the best. Unfortunately it won't be ready until after Easter this year, according to my butcher. I love lamb and it is a good meat, ethically speaking, because it can't really be intensively farmed. Lambs need to graze. They also thrive in poor, hilly pasture, hence their popularity in Wales and in Greece. Folks who've lived in the US say lamb is much better this side of the pond (UK).

            1. re: greedygirl

              I'm from Alberta and I find local lamb is much better than the Auzzie and Kiwi lamb we can get in the Grocery stores here. It's a breed from South Africa our lamb guy breeds.

              1. re: Bryn

                Colorado lamb is the best I've ever had (and I love lamb, too).

          2. re: coll

            ". Besides lots of people don't like (or think they don't like) lamb."

            Nah. I'm downright positive I don't like lamb.

            1. re: laliz

              With you there. I can't stand the smell of lamb, much less the taste.

              1. re: queencru

                I grew up with Mom trying to sneak mutton into things. I could smell it when I walked in the door. After years, I discovered that young lamb doesn't have that smell, to me anyway.

                Ooops, old post.

                1. re: queencru

                  Too bad for you & laliz. More for me.

            2. re: Agent Orange

              Påskelam - "Easter lamb" is the traditional meal in Norway.

            3. Laliz has an excellent explanation for the historical reasons ham has become a traditional food for many Americans on Easter (as it is in Central Europe, as well).

              As for Christians and kashrut, short version is that St. Peter had a dream where God basically said "Eat whatever you want" and the apostles talked about it and were cool with it. More involved version: Christians have a different understanding of Jewish ritual law and believe that it was fulfilled ultimately by Christ. There were lots of things that the Jews of the Roman era did that Jesus did not.

              9 Replies
              1. re: JungMann

                "and were cool with it" I love this...you are too funny!

                1. re: JungMann

                  JungMann you also forgot that Jesus said that it is not what goes into a man that makes him clean/unclean but what comes out of his mouth. I think a lot of Christians consider that to be true

                  1. re: JungMann

                    From a more skeptical pov, if you're going to try and convert Greco-Roman gentiles, you'd better not (a) tell them they've got to adhere to a whole roster of dietary restrictions and (b) tell the men they've got to be circumcised. :)

                    1. re: Striver

                      Peter's "slaughter and eat" vision has nothing to do with dietary restrictions, and everything to do with accepting Gentiles (specifically the Roman centurion Cornelius) into what had been a Jewish group that would have been forbidden from associating with (unclean) Gentiles, especially Romans.

                      1. re: MikeB3542

                        I have read several interpretations of this text, and they vary; the meaning you ascribe is certainly there, but it is coupled with the assertion that the "unclean" is no longer so. That would include Gentiles; it would also include the animals in question.

                        Now, about that circumcision thing....

                    2. re: JungMann

                      Plus when trying to convert others to Christianity, the didn't just ficus on the Jews but the Gentiles as well. It is a lot easier to convert folks by lessening restrictions hence the lack of strict dietary rules and the removal of circumsision.

                      1. re: melpy

                        Please, please, please tell me that Autocorrect was responsible for that "ficus on the Jews." Make my Friday.

                          1. re: Brianne920

                            FOCUS on the Jews.
                            Sorry it took two years to get back around to replying.

                      2. Ham is a Christmas thing in the UK. At Easter, lamb is traditional in most European countries, especially Greece, where Easter is the main festival and spit-roasted lamb the order of the day.

                        I'll probably be doing lamb in some form. Haven't decided yet whether it will be rack of lamb a la Ottolenghi, or leg, or shoulder. Depends on the number of guests!

                        1. laliz has it right about the slaughter/curing/readiness issue. It was also helped along by a clever marketing campaign in the US here in the 30's.

                          Lamb is still traditional on many tables, as well.

                          In my parent's day, the family had a rotation: Thanksgiving Turkey, Christmas Turkey, New Year's Day Fresh Ham, Easter Baked Glazed Ham (the cured variety). In my siblings' control, the Christmas Turkey's been replaced by whole Beef Tenderloin, nobody much celebrates New Year's Day anymore, and if anyone does Easter, it's Lamb or Ham. Two of us love lamb, the other two can't stand it. Go figure.

                          1. Ham is traditional in the South because pork is. The South was always rural and poor, and largely dependent on subsistence agriculture.
                            Pigs are the gift from God that keeps on giving in large litters and the ability to fend for themselves. You can use every part of the pig but the oink.
                            As the South recovered from the slash and burn of the Civil War and the devastation of Reconstruction, cattle ranching increased but the cultural patterns had long since taken root.
                            Southern food is largely based on pork and that other self-sufficient creature, the chicken, which pecks around for its own daily fare, and gives back chicks, eggs, Sunday dinner, and feathers for pillows.
                            I grew up in New Orleans but I don't remember eating lamb at a restaurant until I was an adult. You have to go up to Kentucky before you find mutton BBQ in the Appalachian areas. Lamb is now on restaurant and upscale tables, but it still isn't ordinary fare.

                            There were also no ethnic groups that settled in the rural South that were from sheep herding cultures.
                            Sheep farming is very scarce South of the Mason-Dixon. Probably as much geography, history, and culture as anything else.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: MakingSense

                              To MakingSense: Pigs did well on the American frontier because they were hardy survivors. They could forage for themselves in the woods and were not as subject to wolfy predators as were, say, lambs. Also a historian points out that when a hog was bitten by a rattlesnake he was not much disturbed and usually ate the rattlesnake. When refrigeration didn't exist, pork could be preserved by salting and/or smoking. Pork earned its place on our American tables---and not just in the South.

                              I think that Laliz is historically correct in his/her post but I would rather believe that we eat ham on Easter so that people at home for the holiday can enjoy ham sandwiches all the next week....

                            2. For me it's lasagna!, Christians eat pork et al because jewish old testament laws ended on the cross. Shalom!

                              1. Thanksgiving: Turkey
                                Christmas: Tamales
                                New Years: whatever
                                St. Patties:CB&C
                                Easter: Ham

                                This is how it was done when I was growing up. "And if ya don't like it, too damn bad!"
                                That was a direct quote form my father, God rest his soul.

                                1. Bunnies were too small to feed the entire family :)

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: scubadoo97

                                    How about rabbit with a mole sauce?

                                  2. 1. Christianity is the only the major religion with no forbidden foods (well, virtually none: the Apostles basically forbade the eating of meat or blood of animals sacrificed to idols, but the Great Compromise in early Christianity as recorded in the book of Acts of the Apostles was that Gentile converts were not obliged by the ceremonial and dietary laws of the Torah).

                                    2. Pigs are big not merely in the American South but also the Iberian and Italian penisulas and central and Eastern Europe (and, lest I neglect it - hugely important in the cuisines China, and Latin America). Pigs are unique as midsize livestock that matures within a single season and are very efficient in terms of feed. And as a slaughtered animal, they offer delights from snout to tail. So they are the perfect domesticated meat source of the peasant.

                                    Lamb was not normally available at Easter (Easter falls anywhere from March 22 to April 25 in the Western Christian calendar - the first Sunday after the first full moon (not the astronomical full moon, but based on an ancient calculated formula, but I digress) after the vernal equinox; later in the Eastern Christian calendar - Western Christians follow an Easter dating that does not account for mid-4th century CE revisions to the Jewish calendar) in colder climate Christian lands. However, it is much more traditionally associated with the Easter feast in Christianity worldwide than pork. And, when I was growing up, we almost always had lamb for Easter. To me lamb is to Easter like turkey is to Thanksgiving.

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: Karl S

                                      Lamb was associated with Christ. The Agnus Dei is sung or spoken at every Roman Catholic Mass.
                                      From Wiki:
                                      "Agnus Dei is a Latin term meaning Lamb of God, and was originally used to refer to Jesus Christ in his role of the perfect sacrificial offering that atones for the sins of humanity in Christian theology, harkening back to ancient Jewish Temple sacrifices."

                                      1. re: MakingSense

                                        The Latin and Greek words for what the English call Easter are Pascha - meaning Passover, just as Pentecost is the Greek cognate for Shavuot. The 50 days of Easter are traditionally a time of feasting and festive foods for Christians.

                                        1. re: MakingSense

                                          Agnus Dei...it is after all, the second Passover.

                                        2. re: Karl S

                                          eating food sacrificed to idols was left to the individual christian's conscience. one was not to eat something in front of a "weak" brother, however, that might cause him to falter in his faith (because of a misunderstanding of his actual liberty in such things).

                                          1. re: alkapal

                                            Just asking, alkapal, Catholic school for you too?

                                        3. Pork was a commonly eaten meat in Europe before Christianity, and to encourage people to convert they probably left the "no pork" part out. Pigs were (and are) considered "dirty" in the middle east and south asia.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: kirinraj

                                            pigs are considered "dirty" in south asia? what am i going to make "pork badun" with? http://www.bigoven.com/38731-Sri-Lank...

                                            1. re: alkapal

                                              oh...i meant more the hindu/muslim parts of south asia. In India, pork is not widely eaten, mostly in the tribal regions (Sikkim, Assam, Nagaland). Sri Lanka is Buddhist, mostly.

                                              1. re: kirinraj

                                                oh right. the muslims consider pork verboten, of course. and the hindus, GENERALLY, are vegetarians. many buddhists, too, are vegetarians.

                                                but pork is used also in thai and vietnamese cooking., burmese, indonesian, chinese, korean....

                                          2. In my family, the traditional Easter food is chocolate! (and jelly beans, and peeps...) We never did a big ham or lamb dinner, usually more of a brunch deal - plenty of eggs, bagels, crepes. Then usually on to a Seder sometime that week :-)

                                            1. As we always say in my family when deciding on the Easter menu: "It's the lamb of God, not the ham of God!" So we always have lamb. Also, we frequently invite guests of other religions, so we try to stay away from controversial foods!

                                              11 Replies
                                              1. re: roxlet

                                                I read somewhere that the Ham at Easter tradtion actually orginated with the Romans. Apparently, some seacoast dwelling Romans had a tradtion of digging holes in the beaches (below the tide line) and burying pork legs in them for preservation (by the sea water) They would be dug up again in the spring, just in time for Lupercal, the Roman New Year Which was around April 1 (april fools day comes from when the the Papacy switched the date of the New Year to Jan 1, "April fools" were orginally those people who refused to go with the change as continues to celebrate the new year around April) Since one of the reasons (from a historical point of view) for the date of Easter was to cover the Roman Holiday (much as Chrismas covered Saturnalia) so that early Chistinans wouln't be tempted by the festivities) the cured pork tradtion was sort of added on to the Easter festivities.

                                                1. re: jumpingmonk

                                                  easter is connected to the jewish passover period, which is determined by the jewish calendar. not to "cover" the roman holiday.

                                                  1. re: jumpingmonk

                                                    The Lupercalia occurred in mid-February. The dating of Easter has absolutely nothing to do with Roman holidays.

                                                    And, despite the very popular lore that the dating of Christmas arose as a holiday to be covered by the 3d century Roman festival of Sol Invictus, it more probably arose from the earlier notion that the Crucifixion likely occurred on the same day of the year as the conception of Jesus (which was a date in a fixed solar calendar that came to be associated with March 25 or April 6), which put the date of the Nativity 9 months later.

                                                    Anyway, to keep this about food, that reported method of curing pork would have basically been a form of pickling, since the tides in the Mediterranean are not particularly variable.

                                                    1. re: Karl S

                                                      Back in my high school Latin class days, we were always told that Lupercalia was the precurser of Valentines Day (ancient fertility right --> holiday celebrating love). Whether that's actually true or not, I can't say.

                                                      Funny how it all comes back to chocolate-centered holidays. Though come to think of it, most holidays in my family were chocolate-centered.

                                                      1. re: Emmmily

                                                        you can thank the conquistadors for that, of course, as there was no chocolate (or vanilla, chillies, potatoes, maize, et cet.) in the Old World until the 16th century.

                                                    2. re: jumpingmonk

                                                      I am so glad you chimed in with this...Italian families on the Adriatic coast of the Abruzze still preserve/bury pork hocks in salt for New Years dinner for luck, based on ancient rules that pre-date Christianity. The customs of Christianity are so very often based on trade-offs that substituted pagan festivals with santized and sanctified rites. The lamb that is 'the lamb of God" has deeply pagan roots.

                                                      1. re: LJS

                                                        The pork for New Years is a cultural custom arising from the natural slaughter calendar, as pigs mature within a single season and are slaughtered at the end of the season in mid-autumn.

                                                        The lamb of God, however, has more specifically Jewish than pagan roots (other than the fact that Jews in the Temple era still practiced animal sacrifice, as did pagans, but there were lots of differences in the sacrificial ethos). The major festivals of Christianity owe less to pagan roots than folklorists of the late 19th and early 20th century (whose influence obtains still on the Internet and elsewhere, but has undergone a lot of deconstruction by scholars in the past generation or two) had people think.

                                                        1. re: Karl S

                                                          You would have a wonderful conversation with my art history prof (a Jesuit)...he showed us some amazing pictures of cave art that illustrated the figure of a sheppard carrying a lamb...definitely pre-Judeao/Christian in his opinion. But then, you know those Jesuits...everything is a question to be debated except one.

                                                          1. re: LJS

                                                            The phrase 'lamb of God' only occurs in the NT at the start of John, the same gospel that starts with the more Greek-like concept of the 'logos' (word).

                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                              The original sacrifice for sin (a goat or lamb) was placed on the altar; and "infused with the sins of the community by the priest but then driven out into the wilderness(smacked on the rump to take away the sins of the community (this is where the concept of scapegoat comes from)

                                                              1. re: betsydiver

                                                                In Mosaic law there were multiple offerings and sacrifices. The scapegoat was released alive (and never laid on the altar), but most animals were killed, burned, whole or in part, with the rest eaten by priests and/or the family making the offering. The same passage that talks about the 'escaped-goat', also mentions repeatedly a bullock (KJV), and another goat that is 'a sin offering'. In the case of the Passover lamb, it was just killed, roasted and eaten by the family.

                                                                Also that scapegoat business is on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), not Passover.

                                                                NT (Christian) imagery is equally diverse, alluding in bits and pieces to OT practices and stories. There's no one consistent parallel.

                                                  2. jews and muslims were primarily desert people. pigs do not sweat they wallow. pigs are thus bad to have in a desert environment because they soil very precious water holes and make them unpotable.

                                                    christianity exported the monotheistic mythology to non desert regions, so the prohibition on pork no longer made sense.

                                                    16 Replies
                                                    1. re: thew

                                                      Yes! That is what my archaeology professor taught us, but this it the first time I've heard it outside that class. Anytime I try to explain the logic of pigs vs. cattle in the desert I get a lot of blank stares.

                                                      As for ham on Easter, we have ham for every holiday in my family, plus birthdays and any other special occasion. I'm the youngest and therefore the recipient of all leftover food (even though I'm a full-fledged adult and have been shopping/cooking for myself for nearly a decade), so it's quite common to find a pound or two of spiral sliced ham in my freezer.

                                                      1. re: thew

                                                        While that has some logic to it, that is unconnected to any of the actual reasons. Pork is far from the only food prohibited by Kashrut, and it is very clear, when the dietary laws are studied as a whole, that the reasons behind it are purely theological, not based on food safety or water preservation. Camels are an excellent and clean animal to raise for meat in the desert, and yet they are also forbidden by Kashrut. Also, the Middle East is not one giant dessert. The Ancient Israelites were not a nomadic desert people like the Ancient Arabs. They inhabited primarily the non-desert regions of their kingdoms, and lived in close proximity to many other peoples who ate pork without any issue.
                                                        The reason the early Christian church did not force its adherent to follow Kashrut is that they determined Kashrut to have been intended for the Jewish people. The early Christians who came from the Jewish people did still have to follow Kashrut (and be circumcized, et cetera).

                                                        1. re: danieljdwyer

                                                          "actual reasons" is a funny phrase. mythology is often formed to codify behaviors, but that explanation post-dates the behaviors, rather than predates them. Say a society wants to ban pork, eg, for reasons like the one outlined above, it formulates a set of religious laws to back it up. The reasoning behind the religious laws may or may not reflect the actual reasoning behind the prohibition, which might have been in place generations before the law was codified.

                                                          The laws of kshrut, in particular, generalize from specific cases, to make a broad protection. there is a reason why cloven hooved animals are considered trayf. most likely it stems from the porcine prohibition. it got generalized to include other animals, including camels, even if those animals do not require prohibition. the milk/meat prohibition was originally just not eating a kid in the milk of its mother. to avoid the possibility that was extended to all milk and meat. hell it was even extended to chicken, which doesn;t even give milk. (some scholars think one of the schisms in judaism that led to christianity was on just this point - in the gallilee they wanted chicken and milk together. a very chowish choice)

                                                          the point is that theological choices generally enforce cultural prohibitions, they do not create them, and they are justifications that may have nothing to do with the actual reasoning behind not eating something. Think about it, why else should pork be banned? there are plenty of cultures in the world that survive quite well with pork as a mainstay in the diet. why is it that the only cultures to prohibit it are desert people?

                                                          1. re: thew

                                                            To start with, it's silly to conflate the terms "religion" and "mythology". They have very different meanings, and understanding the difference is very important to understanding anything about either of them. The difference has nothing to do with whether or not either one has any truth to it. Ancient Roman Religion and Roman myth come from the same time period, but are by no means the same thing
                                                            Now, back to pork, there was absolutely no practical reason to ban the eating of pork, therefore it is illogical to assume that any society would have sought to ban it. The ban on pork is drawn from the second creation myth in Genesis, that is, the Eden narrative. The expanded version of this story predates the existence of any identifiably Jewish culture, and is very likely proto-Semitic.
                                                            Since the Ancient Israelites are not a desert people, and it is generally accepted that the ban on pork in Islam is a belief borrowed from Judaism, it's not reasonable to claim that the only cultures that prohibit it are desert people. The only cultures to prohibit it are united in only one respect: having a belief system that stems from the early teachings which eventually were compiled as the Torah. Several Jewish groups in Africa, who never lived in deserts and who have been isolated from Israeli Jews since prior to the establishment of the ancient Kingdom of Israel, also don't eat pork.
                                                            Religion does a lot of things that are purely theological, and have absolutely nothing to do with enforcing cultural prohibitions. I'm not sure why people find it necessary to link this one particular facet of Jewish belief to some practical implication. It doesn't even take religion for people to shun foods based on deeply held beliefs. Your average American thinks insects are dirty or gross, and therefore will not eat them. Absolutely no religion or government trying to control people involved.

                                                            1. re: danieljdwyer

                                                              W/out getting into my bona fides, i know the difference between mythology and religion, and if i mention one that is exactly what i mean, and i am not conflating it w/ the other.

                                                              likewise i said nothing about controlling people.

                                                              1. re: danieljdwyer

                                                                the ban on pork post-dates the eden "narrative" by a vast period, as do other "kosher" rules. abraham, the father of judaism, was not "kosher" when he entertained the angels; he served meat and dairy in the same meal.

                                                              2. re: thew

                                                                Of course, Karaite (and Ethiopian) Jews don't follow the rabbinical overlay, so they can have dairy with poultry.

                                                                There is some speculation that the forbidding of pork arose among ancient Egyptians from the taboo against cannibalism - people reportedly taste most like pork, and the Nile River was an artery that connected deep into areas where cannibalism might still have been practiced in early recorded historical times.

                                                                Also, North Africa was not as desert in the pre-Christian era as it is now - the Sahara expanded much farther towards the Mediterranean during the early Christian era.

                                                                1. re: Karl S

                                                                  Norman Mailer did a great description of how pork tastes in his novel on ancient Egypt, it went on for pages and pages.

                                                                  1. re: Karl S

                                                                    I always heard that the egyptian "no pork" argument arose because at some point in egyptian history, a powerful regioes sect based around the God Set arose and threatenend the estabished priesthoods of Osiris and Amun. This sect cosidered the hippopotamus meat sacred and regulary consumed it as part of their rituals. This later chaged into pork as the pig was also identified with Set (and likey becuse it's a lot easier to kill a bunch of pigs for a sacred feast that spear a group of hippoptamai which with egyptian hunting tech was very dangerous.) When the estabished preisthood finally supressed this sect its sacred meat was banned excep during an annual feast held on a night of the full moon (since hippos were associated with the moon as well). The Jewish people are beived to have adopted this tradtion during thier time in egypt (in fact some early Jewish sects even retained the secret full moon pork feasts) at least that's what I was told

                                                                  2. re: thew

                                                                    I thought the prohibition against pork came from the necessity to cook it well to avoide trichinosis that was at odds with a nomadic lifestyle. Thus the religious dietary laws of the Jews and Muslims were simply precautionary wisdom codified.

                                                                    1. re: LJS

                                                                      That's a modern day rationalization.

                                                                  3. re: danieljdwyer

                                                                    >>>The early Christians who came from the Jewish people did still have to follow Kashrut (and be circumcized, et cetera).<<<
                                                                    at the risk of being deleted (oh! never!) i must say this is not true, according to Acts. it was a dispute, but was not an imperative. in fact, that position (that all new believers, jew or gentile, should be circumcised and adhere to traditional jewish dietary laws) was specifically repudiated by the disciples.

                                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                                      While the Acts account makes it sound as though the issue was settled once and for all, there is evidence in polemic writings against 'heresies' that there were Christian groups that continued to adhere to Jewish ways. There were also groups (e.g. Marcion) who rejected the OT entirely, arguing that its god was totally different. The orthodoxy that prevailed tried, in a sense to have it both ways - claiming a heritage from the ancient Jewish religion, while rejecting most of its rules. That tension between keeping and rejecting continues in one way and another to this day.

                                                                      Note that one of the prohibitions that was retained in the Jerusalem ruling was against eating blood. East Orthodox (Greek, Syrian etc) retain that prohibition; western Roman Catholicism did not. So there are blood puddings in Italy, but not in Greece. The Orthodox also developed (and have kept) a more elaborate system of fasting rules (such as the Lenten no-meat, no dairy), which have influenced their cuisine. It is easy for Americans (especially Protestants) to forget how closely linked religion and food can be.

                                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                                        Perhaps stating so simply as I did that, "The early Christians who came from the Jewish people did still have to follow Kashrut (and be circumcized, et cetera)," is misleading. It was never, and still is not, a settled issue, and it was never so simple. But, several Christian particular churches which claim both Apostolic Succession and Jewish heritage, mostly from the Antiochian and Non-Chalcedonian traditions, have always kept up adherence to Jewish dietary law. For instance, Bob Marley, as a convert from Rasta to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, followed dietary restrictions very similar to Kashrut later in his life.
                                                                        As to your other response that the ban on pork post-dates the Eden Narrative, you are absolutely correct. The most commonly accepted theory among the rabbinical community and in academia is that the eventual ban drew from the Eden Narrative. Basically, there were no pigs in the Garden of Eden, rather, all the beasts of the earth in Eden were cloven hooved ruminants (and the beasts of the sea had fins and scales, et cetera). Things like rabbits and whales and hawks existed only in the fallen world, and the righteous man would therefore not eat these.

                                                                        1. re: danieljdwyer

                                                                          Speaking of rabbit: when a casual Italian-American friend of mine was a young girl, her grandmother let her pet a rabbit on nana's lap on Easter morning. When dinnertime came, nana explained the rabbit was part of the festa....

                                                                          1. re: Karl S

                                                                            We lived in Puglia (southern Italy) for a while. On Easter morning (and remember we hadn't eaten meat for the entire 40 days of Lent so this was a big deal), we went to visit the rabbits and chickens that were about to give up their lives for our festa. While I think we stopped short of bidding them good-bye by name, we did say a blessing at the pen. Then the women and children went off to mass while the men stayed behind to slaughter.

                                                                  4. Why do Christians eat pork?

                                                                    Because it's deliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiicious.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Avalondaughter

                                                                        And that, my friends, is the short of it. It really is that simple.

                                                                      2. Here's a link to a recent AP article on ham:


                                                                        Relevant excerpt:

                                                                        "An Easter ham is a tradition that dates to pre-Christian Europe, when the pig was considered a symbol of luck. But the Easter ham as we know it is more a creation of American marketing than a throwback to the old country.

                                                                        During the 1930s, Chicago meatpackers launched a campaign promoting hams as an Easter dish. And thus was born the precooked ham industry, allowing Americans to heat, glaze and serve. "

                                                                        1. Because lamb is hideously expensive and a lot of people don't like it anyway... I'm more puzzled as to why the supermarkets have dragged out the turkeys for the holiday - I've never heard of an 'Easter Turkey'...

                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Kajikit

                                                                            We always have one. Our Family loves lamb, but the family we share our holidays with hates it. Thus Easter turkey was born from the rubble.

                                                                            1. re: Kajikit

                                                                              I would guess the turkeys are making an appearance as they are the least expensive meat right now, which may be an important factor to a lot of families.

                                                                              1. re: coll

                                                                                Turkey tends to be the go-to meat at our family gatherings, because it something we can all agree on. Not everyone in the family likes lamb, beef or ham, but we all like turkey. We are, however, having a small ham this year as well.

                                                                            2. Another thought.
                                                                              There never was a widespread tradition of sheepherding in the US. Only a few States have ethnic groups that raised sheep for wool or meat.
                                                                              What really killed any hope of Americans adopting lamb was the serving of mutton to American GIs during WWII. Let the military mess halls cook up some elderly sheep meat and serve it in chowhalls and how many guys are ever going to eat that stuff again?
                                                                              They had to slather it with sweet neon green mint jelly to get it down. Not a favorite meal.
                                                                              WWII was the first time that most Americans were exposed to foods other than their own regional cooking.
                                                                              That bad experience with mutton sealed its fate, and they were happy to go back to what they considered their own celebration meals. Ix-nay on the sheep-meat.

                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                              1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                I always find it interesting when people view mutton as a negative. Mutton chops and kidneys with bacon were on the first class breakfast menu for the Titanic.
                                                                                It's not that baaaaaaad.
                                                                                Our Easter leg o lamb is marinating now.
                                                                                My uncles who were all in WWII would not get near lamb of any sort. The flip side of that coin is that they treated Spam and canned corned beef like the nectar of the Gods.

                                                                                1. re: Fritter

                                                                                  Alternatively, my grandfather refused eat spam and did not ingest a single grain of rice for the rest of his life b/c he ate so much of both during WWII.

                                                                                2. re: MakingSense

                                                                                  My mother grew in up NYC in the 30s and 40s, and says everyone she knew (all Irish though) had lamb for Easter. Now that she's an hour or so upstate, she says no one has it, and she has to seek out a farmer that will sell her some. Since she loves being different, she does just that every Easter, probably hoping to convert others along the way. When I told her I was having veal, she asked WHY I wasn't having lamb!

                                                                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                    I can still remember my father disparaging mutton. He was on a ship in the Pacific during WWII and he did not have enough bad things to say. We never had lamb or sheep of any type.

                                                                                    When I grew up and tried lamb chops, roast leg of lamb, etc. uh, I really am Daddy's girl. No thanks.

                                                                                    1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                      You are so right. My Dad a WWII and Korean veteran, would talk about how awful that mutton was and how the smell was horrid. It took me quite some talking to convince my Dad to eat my lamb chops. Well he finally did, and man did he change his mind about lamb. All he could say, was he couldn't believe he'd gone all these years avoiding it.

                                                                                    2. On cool-season holidays, it’s an American tradition
                                                                                      to gather around the dinner table and have some
                                                                                      large hunka protein to mark the occasion, On
                                                                                      Thanksficing it’s turkey; on Christmas, for many it’s
                                                                                      a standing rib roast. For Easter, that leaves ham.

                                                                                      In the U.S., meat is not generally considered a
                                                                                      religious food (except for worshippers of
                                                                                      The Church of the Most Highly Revered BBQ
                                                                                      Ribs, such as me). People eat it because they like

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: mpalmer6c

                                                                                        yep, yep... we were a turkey/roast/ham family, and so were most of the people I grew up around. there was an immigrant family (armenian i think) and they had lamb sometimes. my dad was one of those WWII vets who wont even get near a table with lamb on it, let alone eat the stuff. so sad....

                                                                                      2. Those of the Greek Orthodox persuasion will always have lamb. The whole idea of Easter is about rebrth or ressurection, which ties in very nicely with Spring as a metaphore. Greeks will have butter molds in the shape of a lamb on their tables; the Easter "grass" in our Easter baskets is a reference to the Spring grass. Eggs are key as well, with eggs being a symbol of new life. Hard boiled eggs are baked into breads, red-dyed eggs are exchanged. A common "game" is for each person to have a hard boiled egg that they hold upright wrapped in their palm, and tap/strike on top of another person's similarly held egg. The un-cracked egg "wins".

                                                                                        I am always intrigued with the similarities and paralells between different religions. The Christian Holy Communion stems from a Passover meal.

                                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: PattiCakes

                                                                                          And, for people with Greek and Latin languages, what is called Easter in English is a "Passover" (Pascha and its derivatives in those languages) feast.

                                                                                          1. re: Karl S

                                                                                            Yet the date for Pascha is carefully chosen not to coincide with Passover (though the Wiki article claims this is more a consequence of the other calculation details than intentional).

                                                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                                                              I could provide an explanation, but it would be beyond even the scope of this topic. There's a lot at play with that detail.

                                                                                          2. re: PattiCakes

                                                                                            20th in the Top ten signs you might be Russian Orthodox:

                                                                                            • Your Easter isn’t Easter without an all-night party (featuring vodka and 10 dishes of sausage with cheese).


                                                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                                                              You need all three after the abstinence from meat, eggs, dairy, fish, oil and wine for 7 weeks....(and we Roman Catholics whine about 2 partial fast days and 7 days of mild abstinence from meatflesh only during our Lent!)

                                                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                                                The Joy of Sects...hee hee...loved it :-)

                                                                                            2. Of the 79 past replies to your question none of them referenced a single bible and most consisted of a lot of let us just say "speculation" about Easter and had nothing to do with why Christians eat pork. I have Jewish friends and get asked this a lot. You can look this up if you want to check my source if you like. You will need to get your hands on a Christain bible or a copy of the New Testement. I would recommend a NIV bible since it is the easiest to read. 1 Timothy (First Timothy) 4:3 - 4:5 "They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and those who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. " This is typically why Christians pray or "say grace" before a meal. Basicly it comes down to the food is cleaned (in a religious sense) by the word of god and therefore consumable. And the religous justification for that is the dietary laws like those listed in Deuteronomy are then modified by Timothy. So Christians are free to eat lobster, clams, pork, rabbit, etc.

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. re: Richard66

                                                                                                Because that doesn't answer the issue of the particular choice of lamb vs pork for Easter.

                                                                                              2. I haven't bothered to read the entire thread because the whole subject is absurd--though I think you are raising a good question in that direction. As a fervent Catholic child, it always mystified me how we got from the blood-and-guts-trauma of Holy Week (tho I wouldn't have characterized it as such then) to [suprise!] Easter Bunnies, decorated eggs, and the whole hoopla of Easter Sunday itself. This is not a disenchanted adult criticizing this or that cultural/religious practice--it's just how I saw it as a child. After transitioning from ancient blood sacrifice to cute little bunnies, the subject of ham is a trivial sideshow.

                                                                                                That said, I suspect that Easter ham had a seasonal context--i.e. pig killed X date in autumn, salted for Y period in winter, good to go in Z date in spring. I doubt there was ever any religious significance to ham. As to why eat pork anyway, why eat anything anyway? I mean, really, limburger cheese? De gustibus non est disputandum

                                                                                                1. Because we are sick to death of turkey!!! Ham is cheap and pretty yummy. I'd do lamb but it is more expensive.

                                                                                                  My kids have finally agreed that turkey at Christmas is no longer necessary! phew!! So this year I'm going to save up and we are having beef tenderloin!! yipee!! Ham is still goodd for a crowd though...and you can use the leftovers for breakfast.

                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: julesincoq

                                                                                                    Good for you, julesincoq--nice to see these moments of personal liberation. I had Xmas eve dinner at a neighbor's place in 2009; her turkey was unspeakably spectacular--best I've ever had by light years. That said, I'd never shed a tear if told I'd never taste turkey again.

                                                                                                    1. re: Masonville

                                                                                                      I'm with you, Masonville. Turkey is my least-favorite supposed "celebration" food ever. So bland and dull. It's not like I hate it, but what's to love?

                                                                                                      Leg of lamb for me this (and every) Easter.

                                                                                                      1. re: civilizationinruins

                                                                                                        best thing about turkey is cornbread dressing and cran sauce, period. i can skip the turkey.

                                                                                                  2. I haven't read through every post so I may repeat another poster unintentionally...As to your first question, I believe It's a commercial thing. The stores reduce the price of ham and have large areas devoted to hams of all sorts so we want to buy it.

                                                                                                    Why do Christians eat pork...I didn't know about kosher growing up, we ate what was put in front of us. As an adult, I have read in the Bible, Mark 7:14-22 what Jesus had to say about clean and unclean so I eat pork. I have Messianic Jewish friends who don't eat pork and I greatly respect that decision and make sure that I don't contaminate their foods with non kosher things when I cook something that they might eat.

                                                                                                    1. Not sure why ham on Easter.Having been raised Catholic, I've noticed that Christian holidays tend to happen close to the time that Jewish holidays happen (Catholic school and knowing nothing about Jews at the time, they were always couched in different terms when we learned the Old Testament part). Passover is about the only Old Testament thing I remem ber from Religion studies as a kid in Catholic school. Maybe it's a Lutheran Plot to distance Christians from Jews? Okay, that's a reach and I was kidding. Lutheranism started in Frankenmouth Michigan. There's a lot of hog farming in the midwest, I'm just sayin'. I have no idea.

                                                                                                      I prefer leg of lamb, also trying to meld the religious significance, but nobody I know tries to do that but me.Besides, Ilike roast leg of lamb better than ham. Maybe I was Jewish in a past life?

                                                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: EWSflash

                                                                                                        easter is close to passover because jesus was in jerusalem for passover and his "last supper" was a passover meal. after that, he went to gethsemane to pray, then was arrested that night.

                                                                                                        as to ham at easter (or christmas), i just associate ham with the southern table. is ham popular in the north and west, too?

                                                                                                        1. re: EWSflash

                                                                                                          Easter is the only Christian holiday that is tied, historically, to a Jewish one (Passover). The English name 'easter' derives from an old English goddess, but in many other languages the names is something like Pascha which is a Latin or Greek version of the Hebrew name for Passover.

                                                                                                          Christmas and Hanukkah happen to fall in the same month, but otherwise have no historical connection. Hanukkah celebrates an event in Jewish history that does not even appear in the Protestant Bible (and only alluded to the fuller Catholic version).

                                                                                                          Pentecost corresponds to Shavuot. But Pentecost is a feast day in the Christian liturgical calendar, but relatively unknown outside of the liturgical churches.

                                                                                                          1. re: paulj

                                                                                                            I wish I'd had a better, more ecumenical religious education. I'm just sayin'.

                                                                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                                                                              Actually, Pentecost (aka Whitsunday or Whitsun in English-speaking areas), the third-ranking Christian feast and the culmination of the 50-day Easter season, is tied to Shavuot, because Shavuot is tied to Passover.

                                                                                                              1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                Right, there's that little 'pente', 5, in the name.

                                                                                                          2. could it be because the average household knows how to heat an already cooked ham but has probably never used a meat thermometer and, therefore, is afraid to roast a leg of lamb?

                                                                                                            1. As we say in our family, "It's the lamb of god, not the ham of god." That being said, we're having a porchetta tomorrow.

                                                                                                              1. we are going to a family (in law) gathering where the featured entree will be turkey wraps for those on diets. Sounds to me more like lunch for a work meeting. I grew up with roast lamb and it is one of my favorite meals, always with asparagus and rice pilaf, O well, maybe next weekend!

                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                1. re: tim irvine

                                                                                                                  what a drag...turkey wraps! how are "wraps" dietetic? at least get a big ol' honkin' salad with (er) turkey (ech ech). maybe then you could wrangle some carrots, broc. cauli. avocado. etc.

                                                                                                                  but a scrawny (and you know it DRY) turkey wrap is just torture.

                                                                                                                2. Way late to this party, but -- my family ate turkey on Thanksgiving, roast beef on Christmas, and lamb on Easter. I understood that the lamb was to represent Christ as the paschal lamb. Ham had no place, and was not a "holiday" meal.

                                                                                                                  Why do Christians eat pork anyway? Because it is so delicious. Try it and see, if your beliefs do not prevent.

                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: lyden

                                                                                                                    Nothing else like ham. Or pork for that matter.

                                                                                                                    Years ago, I read Norman Mailer's Ancient Evenings about the pharoahs of Egypt, they were forbidden to eat pork. When the character telling the story tastes the "forbidden fruit", it goes on for many, many pages describing his ecstasy and delight at the texture and flavor. Ham isn't my very favorite, but after reading that I had a new appreciation.

                                                                                                                    1. re: lyden

                                                                                                                      Thank you! I agree completely.

                                                                                                                    2. Matthew 15:11

                                                                                                                      King James Version
                                                                                                                      Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.

                                                                                                                      New International Version
                                                                                                                      What goes into a man's mouth does not make him 'unclean,' but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him 'unclean.' "

                                                                                                                      The bible states that this was part of Jesus' response to the Phairasees questions about Jesus and some of the diciples breaking tradition about cleanliness, a cornerstone of Jewish culture at the time. Most Christian traditions interpert this to mean that Jesus specifically recinded Kosher practices regarding food.

                                                                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                                          and abraham didn't keep kosher. how about dem apples. ;-)).

                                                                                                                          (kosher came after abraham)

                                                                                                                          1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                            what about those extra 'clean' animals that Noah took on the ark? :)

                                                                                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                              I read somewhere that during the Spanish Inquestion (sp?) the people had to prove that they were Christians and not Jews by eaing pork for the Easter dinner. And they had to hang the leg bone outside their door also as proof they weren't Jews (the people who crucified Jesus).

                                                                                                                          2. Why ham on Easter?
                                                                                                                            Because in many parts of the south, Easter is HOT unless it comes early in the spring. After church plus an outdoor Easter egg hunt in my fancy clothes, I don't want to come home and roast something for a few hours. Ham can be bought precooked and glazed ahead of time, and if the day is particularly warm we can eat it cold and it still tastes delicious.

                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                            1. re: rusty_s

                                                                                                                              Then it seems that you could just eat a bologna sandwich. By the way, Easter always comes early in the spring.

                                                                                                                            2. Ham is so useful! I won't be serving a baked ham---no Easter guests this year---but I am about to buy one for 58 cents a pound with newspaper coupon, bake it, and cut the whole thing up to freeze in slices and chunks. In coming months I will cook it with greens or green beans or dried limas; make a breakfast sandwich with an egg and some cheese on a whole-wheat English muffin; make lunchtime sandwiches with it; make scalloped potatoes and ham; cut it Julienne for a chef salad; bake it with baked beans; Cuisinart it for ham salad; have it for dinner with a baked sweet potato. The skin and bits of stuff in the pan will also be good to cook with greens or beans. The bone will cook with a huge pot of Cuban black beans, onion, green pepper, tomato sauce, garlic, and cumin to make pints and pints of mashed-up Cuban beans---to freeze for summer guests, a quick dinner with rice and some kind of grilled meat.

                                                                                                                              1. I respect all religious culinary traditions and rules, though honestly I do find some of them befuddling in the modern age. I guess traditions die hard.

                                                                                                                                On a lighter note, although from a different holiday season, this amusing photo from a supermarket display does somehow tie in. To some, this is called progress. In any case, I guess the store owners weren't Jewish.
                                                                                                                                You may need to click on the picture to see the whole story

                                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                                1. re: The Professor

                                                                                                                                  Where did you see this, that's classic.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: The Professor

                                                                                                                                    I plan on having kosher catfish this Easter.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                        Raising pigs on an acre in the South>People ate pigs.
                                                                                                                                        Raising cattle/lamb on thousands of acres in the West>people ate beef/lamb.
                                                                                                                                        Raising pigs in the N. East US on limited property>people ate pigs.
                                                                                                                                        Raising pigs who end up with their own FN TV shows>...............you fill in the blanks.

                                                                                                                                      2. Well in our case it is because we've already finished the seder leftovers....

                                                                                                                                        1. It's "The Lamb of G-d."
                                                                                                                                          Not "the ham of G-d."


                                                                                                                                          (spring = birth = lamb)
                                                                                                                                          (Christmas time = time to slaughter the fatted pig, fresh ham, etc)

                                                                                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                                                                                          1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                                                            From the link I provided last year:

                                                                                                                                            Why is ham a traditional Easter meat?

                                                                                                                                            Just a theory, you understand:

                                                                                                                                            Though some might argue that ham is served at Easter since it is a "Christian" meat, (prohibited by the religious laws of Judaism and Islam), the origin probably lies instead in the early practices of the pagans of Northern Europe.

                                                                                                                                            Having slaughtered and preserved the meat of their agricultural animals the previous fall as part of the Blood Moon celebrations so they would have food supplies during the winter months, pagans would celebrate the arrival of spring by using up the last of the cured meats that remained.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                                                              But the OP wasn't asking about 'fresh ham'. Traditionally Easter ham was a cured one that had spent all winter in the smoke house.


                                                                                                                                              "In the United States, ham is a traditional Easter food. In the early days, meat was slaughtered in the fall. There was no refrigeration, and the fresh pork that wasn't consumed during the winter months before Lent was cured for spring. The curing process took a long time, and the first hams were ready around the time Easter rolled around. Thus, ham was a natural choice for the celebratory Easter dinner."

                                                                                                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                FWIW, pickled (corned) pork was available throughout the winter - dry cured took longer, but corned pork was a staple item.

                                                                                                                                            2. Because eating people (long pig) is frowned upon?

                                                                                                                                              1 Reply