Cultural Traditions for Easter and Easter Dinner
- Breadcrumbs Mar 23, 2013 06:09 PM
I'd love to hear about what traditions folks have for Easter and Easter dinner.
I grew up in Canada in a British household and the only "tradition" I would say we had was that my Mom always purchased Terry's Chocolate Easter Eggs. Inside was a tray of Terry's chocolates. I don't know if Terrys is still around but I haven't seen those eggs in years.
Since my family didn't have any firm traditions, over the years I've tended to pick a country and prepare their traditional dishes for our Easter celebration.
I'd love to hear about everyone else's traditions.
Ah - family Easter dinner. Always started out with my paternal grandmother's homemade strudel-style Spanokopita. And mom's array of pinwheel canapes.
And either a fresh pork roast, roast leg of lamb, or rarely a smoked ham. Sides ALWAYS included Czech bread dumplings & sauerkraut, some type of potato dish (plain boiled or a gratin), & several other vegetables.
Mom also AWAYS made Deviled Eggs, & everything was decorated with sugary "Peeps". In fact, to this day, even though I never eat the darn things, I ALWAYS buy a package of "Peeps" for Easter (in fact, just bought a pack today). Something I just always have to do. . . .
My Mom is a Peep addict. She is so happy now that they come in different colors and for different holidays. Never shared her passion, also can't stand those Circus Peanut orange candies that are in the same class, at least to me. She just eats hers though, she probably couldn't wait long enough to actually decorate with them (although I have a set of the fabric ones which make an appearance every year, in her honor).
Must have country ham for dinner. Oh, and coconut cake (was raised in the south, and I think the coconut is a tradition there).
And while the Mr. and I are retired, I still make little Easter baskets with a few Easter eggs and a bit of candy. And we have a tiny stuffed bunny--lives in a drawer 364 days a year--that I pull out and put at his place setting Easter morning.
I usually host Easter and it is one my favorite meals to cook.
I start with a fun cocktail for when people arrive.
Apps are generally light-crudite, deviled eggs, mixed olives, maybe some nuts. There will be a bar set up, wine and soft drinks/seltzers.
Dinner is roasted leg of lamb with a rosemary mustard glaze, roasted garlic potatoes, hot cross buns, Sichuan green beans, asparagus, ginger carrots, maybe a salad. If vegetarian relative comes I will also make some kind of veggie lasagna. My brother usually brings an array of reds to serve with dinner
Dessert is my sisters bailiwick. Usually some kind of fancy cake.
After dinner (before dessert) we have a huge Easter Egg hunt for the kids. They will then indulge in candy while the adults have coffee and dessert.
I make a big easter basket for my son to open in the AM. Not too much candy in this, mostly spring related things. Usually seeds for planting, new lacrosse balls or other lacrosse stuff, small outdoor toys, etc
Probably my favorite part though is setting the table and decorating around the house. I have collected great Easter related things such as assorted Dedham pottery platters, serving dishes, candlesticks, etc. Gorgeous pastel linens and napkins. Cute place mats, napkins and glasses for the kids table. Plus I splurge on lots of flowers. Cant wait!
The dewy early egg hunt (before church at 9:00) has apparently overshadowed the details of the Easter Sunday dinners in my memory.
It was usually just the three of us, at home.
There was definitely lamb. At least once it was lovely chops. If Easter was on the mid to late end, we'd have our own asparagus, and mint from the patch by the spring. Given today's four inches of snow, we're a ways from asparagus, and even the mint in the backyard bed isn't big enough to use. But we're having lamb next Sunday for sure, a roast half leg.
When winter is this long and Easter so early, there is just no hope of new potatoes, so we go with the storage potatoes we've got, mashed or gratineed; green herbs do the work of signaling spring, greening, and rebirth/resurrection. Come to think of it, creamed potatoes with scallions and/or peas was my mother's usual companion to the lamb.
Lemon seems to strike the right note, with all the acid yellow from the daffodils; it's a given if asparagus is on hand. Spinach or peas fill in if not.
We weren't much of a dessert family, but I seem to remember a pound cake -- to celebrate the upsurge in eggs (we had chickens for much of my childhood). At Easter, eggs belong on the menu one way or another. My way this year: lemon curd tartlets, or a custard.
My family is from the south; we usually have a baked ham, maybe some braised greens, definately roasted asparagus, some type of potato dish and desserts are usually up in the air depending on what we have a taste for...I hate coconut so if it gets to the table it won't be by my hands....I have some fresh limes that I juiced and froze so perhaps a lime curd tart with fresh berries
Grew up in the Midwest with a mostly Filipino family. Luckily our extended family included members in the DC area who would always take care to send us a Virginia ham for the holidays. Round the ham, gaily festooned with red cherries and rings of pineapple, we'd have platters of deviled eggs, asparagus in one form or another, the usual Filipino fiesta fare (lumpia, pancit, embutido etc.) and, most importantly for me, a carrot cake for dessert. Typically I was not a carrot cake fan, but my aunt tailored her recipe to my finicky toddler tastes: sweetening the batter with apple (or was it pineapple juice), studding the cake with macadamia nuts and omitting the raisins I made quite clear I would not eat from a very early age. Peeps were also somehow involved, however the chemicals required to make these brightly colored blobs have left my memories kind of hazy.
Nowadays I have adopted my Middle-Eastern side's traditions, ironically so, since they are Muslim, but at least that means our Easter lamb is always great. There is usually a mezze spread to start, over which we'll play an egg tapping game before moving onto the main meal. Side dishes and desserts usually vary according to what's good at the time of year, but some things never change: we still prefer brunch/lunch over eating dinner and I still dress in slacks in colors more appropriate to a baby's bedroom than a grown man.
Oh yes! It is an early meal. Unlike thanksgiving which was usually day two of family celebrating, Easter was usually day four meaning that after dinner the out of towners headed out around 3:30 or 4. "Dinner" was at 1 pm. Lucky folks got to stick around and have more pie or maybe some soft serve after playing outside if it was nice out.
Grew up in Central CA, and tri-tip cooked on a charcoal grill was always on the menu for Easter (and Christmas too). I don't remember much on sides... usually my mom made fresh rolls, but otherwise I think they varied and depended on who was joining us. But overall Easter was usually a pretty simple dinner. We were pretty involved with our church's music programs and Easter is a big deal for those, so we were often up very early and wouldn't get home til at least 1 or 2pm. When I was younger of course there was baskets, my favorites were always Cadbury Cream Eggs (still my favorite), jelly beans in plastic eggs, and those malted eggs with the candy coatings. Oh and my dad always put in Peeps because he knew we wouldn't eat them and that meant he got to eat them, he loved them.
This year I'm heading up to my aunt's, and so far all I know that we are having is pork tenderloin done on the grill, which is their go-to "group" protein. They are in their 70s and my aunt has some mobility issues so they like to keep it simple. She's still figuring out the rest... I'm hoping she'll let me bring some things so she doesn't have to do all the work. It sounds like there will be about 12 people.
I grew up in Michigan but my parents are from Ohio, and we always had ham for Easter, along with pickled eggs and beets, deviled eggs and a relish tray. Everything else varied somewhat, but there was always a potato dish (either mashed or scalloped, usually), a couple of vegetable sides (often cold steamed asparagus in vinaigrette), sometimes Waldorf salad. I don't remember a specific dessert, although my mother claims she usually made rhubarb pie (I doubt this simply because I LOVE rhubarb pie, and I would have remembered it if she always made it!!!).
My husband, whose family is from central Illinois, always had ham as well, with pineapple upside down cake for dessert. We don't really celebrate Easter ourselves, but I often make my husband his cake anyway!
We had colored eggs, with which we'd play a game called Epper. It's probably known by many other names, but you try to crack your opponent's egg without yours cracking.
It was great fun, except my mom used to make us eat every bit of any egg we played with, because the Easter food was blessed and heaven forbid you wasted any!
We also had ham and rye bread, along with the traditional butter lamb.
Oh, and kielbasa, smoked and fresh. The fresh always accompanied scrambled eggs at breakfast.
Our favorite babka was always present too.
:: Now I wish we were having rabbit ::
LOL! Maybe next year.
Children seem to handle the trauma of chomping up those hollow chocolate rabbits just fine...
When I was four we lived in a Bavarian village for a year, and the Easter baskets there set such a high standard that we never did baskets again once we moved back home. After an elaborately carved marzipan lamb nestled in real grass, with small but choice chocolate eggs in sugar shells, a little balsa basket with Peeps and Hershey's eggs doesn't bring the magic. (Also. I was a real outlier among children in not being wild for candy.)
re: pine time
Actually, when my mother was growing up, the ducklings she and her sisters got for Easter ended up getting served at the next year's Easter dinner. They were pretty surprised - apparently they hadn't been told that was their pets' designated fate :(
I kind of wonder about the "Greatest Generation" sometimes...
All I know is that there were at least two occasions where ducklings were given to the children as pets and then ended up on the dinner table. This was a suburban family - I find it interesting that my father who grew up in the Depression (16 years older than my mother) and was a hunter, trapper and fisherman from the time he could walk practically has no similarly horrific stories. His family knew how to differentiate between pets and food.
Growing up Polish and Catholic in WNY we followed secular and religious traditions.
The secular involved searching for our candy-filled Easter baskets my parents cleverly hid in the house. This was no ordinary drugstore Easter candy though. It was from a chocolate shop nearby that made their own candy. I remember wandering down aisles filled with bins of chocolate bunnies, chicks, cupie dolls, eggs and other novelties in light, dark, white and sometimes orange chocolate (!).
It was good stuff and it was on the pricey side, as good chocolate usually is. (Tthe candy store is still in business, albeit in a different neighborhood.)
It just about killed us kids to have to get dressed in our new Easter clothes to go to Mass and have to wait until afternoon to eat the candy.
The main event of the day was usually a cold meal served as brunch, consisting of traditional food items which had been cooked by my mother, placed in a big basket and blessed by our parish priest on Saturday afternoon. I'm talking about kielbasa, both smoked and fresh (specially made with marjoram for the holiday), sliced ham, hard-boiled eggs, a butter lamb, rye bread, horseradish, and a Polish coffeecake called placek.
It's an odd combination of food to eat cold, but it was really good because everything was so fresh.
Then it was off to visit both sets of grandparents and any aunts, uncles and cousins who happened to be in the area. At that point in time a lot of my extended family lived near my grandparents.
Easter dinner was usually anti-climatic, usually some kind of chicken or sometimes just ham sandwiches with potato salad. My parents usually bought a half of ham from the butcher so there was plenty to go around.
And, of course, for dessert we kids had our candy.
My mother used to send me off to church with the Easter basket on Holy Saturday so she could get the house in shape for Easter! Being Buffalo, it was usually snowing. And you just can't get butter lambs (with the little peppercorn eyes) here on the Left Coast. (BTW, my first job was working at the Broadway Market just before Easter, with everybody buying the stuff for their Easter baskets).
Growing up in Brooklyn/LES Manhattan Slavic households-
Polish,Russian,Ukranian.....Easter was always Kielbasa,both fresh & smoked,with freshly grated horseradish....tons of homemade Pierogies(potato/farmer cheese & sauerkraut filled)served w/ sour cream,pickled beets as a side and I'm sure plenty other sides,but those are the ones that have stuck w/ me for 65+ years.Oh,and of course the Babka!!!
Pizza grana, an Italian pie with ricotta, citrons, and wheatberries.
Cannoli stuffed with ricotta cheese, the ends dipped in either pistachios or chocolate chips.
What my aunties called "Pane di Pasqua"...a challah-like braided braid with colored hardcooked eggs nestled in its folds.
Fava beans with fresh arugula and pecorino.
The Perugina Easter eggs with the treat inside.
The work my aunts (and my assimilated mom!) did!
My lord, I miss my family.
So did I. Pizza di grano (or pastiera) was the essential sweet, as was the cuddurhedu or egg-filled sweetbread ring. Plus other pastries (cannoli, pasticiotti, sfogliatelle) and chocolates, inc., the large chocolate egg or colomba (dove). Never did have goat or lamb as some other Calabrese families did, but always a rich ragu, with lasagna (alt: ravioli) as the pasta, all the gravy meats after. Stuffed artichokes, sauteed greens, roasted peppers, salads, lots of fresh cheese (ricotta in baskets, scamorze). A long and mostly lovely afternoon.
We are not Christians so do not celebrate Easter as such - but certainly regard it as an opportunity for a springtime feast. Dinner on the Sunday is invariably roast lamb.
What goes with it depends on whether Easter is early or late - will there be the first of the local asparagus? Or the first of the Jersey Royal potatoes?
Easter Sunday morning breakfast was, and still is a large hard boiled egg-filled sweetbread ring w icing and sprinkles and lots of steaming caffe latte. Then off to church we went.
Growing up at my parents house:
Drinks and crudites w bagna cauda to start before dinner, which was served at 2:00PM. At table we would have Mother's chicken or shrimp consomme. Next a full-out lasagne with homemade noodles and extra gravy to serve. A roast leg of lamb accompanied by roasted potatoes and asparagus, stuffed artichokes was next...no mint jelly, but I seem to remember a mint sauce or meat gravy of some kind. Tossed salad was last. Espresso and a sweet ricotta pizza finished the meal, although there would be assorted Italian pastry at the ready and the ever present Holiday must , stuffoli.
One cousin always brought freshly baked Italian bread.. always. An aunt would bring an amazing tray of cookies she spent days baking, and every now and then Aunt Madeline would come the day before and make her fantastic ravioli. It was quite a family production, with two grandmothers, three or four aunts, cousins by the dozens. Easily 20 - 25 people and sometimes more.
When I took over the dinner preparations I honed it down to simply canapes w drinks, antipasto, lamb and basically the same vegetable sides, a salad and pastry w espresso. More than enough for reduced numbers of at least 12 - 14 people. I guess you can tell we were a thoroughly Italian family. Really miss the early days though.
Big breakfast at grandma's with bacon, scrambled/fried eggs, Italian People's rolls, piles of candy (and giant chocolate rabbits) from Old Monmouth Candies (at least that's what I THINK the name was), Peeps, Italian cookies. Only some of us were Italian, but in Jersey that doesn't really matter, lol.
Dinner was always a spiral cut honey-baked ham at my auntie's. She's not a great cook, but she'd do just fine with mashed potatoes and green bean casserole, applesauce, lima beans, etc. Good bread from Italian People's bakery. It wasn't really about the food though, ya know?
When we were very young, my father and favorite uncle would create absolutely depraved Easter egg hunts. One time they actually BURIED some of the eggs. I remember sitting in the house with the drapes closed, listening to them snicker in the yard as they hid them. We never found them all, and sometimes they'd turn up MONTHS later.
My parents always designated one specially-decorated egg as The Grand Prize, with a whopping $1 reward for finding it. One year, none of us found it, and both parents forgot where they hid it. Found it, months and months later, when rearranging furniture: Daddy had taped it under the coffee table!
Husband is Polish/American and all the aforementioned Polish traditions have been introduced into my life.
For my family It was always church, egg hunt some real eggs some plastic with money in it then a big afternoon dinner with a ham with pineapple and cloves on top,a big roast beef with lots of garlic and black pepper, hawaiian rolls, potato salad and deviled eggs. Followed by a viewing of The Ten Commandments.
Agreed, second only to Christopher Plummer in The Sound of Music. Swwwooooon. I remember that my aunts would know that my cousins and I would descend like seagulls on the expensive stuff she put out (like shrimp, etc), so we'd be shooed (and happily go) to my aunt's basement where there was a pool table and an old tv. She'd send us down with a tray of stuffed celery and a big bowl of (whole) mixed nuts and we'd watch TV, play pool (badly), and stay out of the grownup's hair. I always hoped that TSOMusic would be on, and that my boy cousins wouldn't nix it.
As a child in Pennsylvania, we always had ham, scalloped potatoes, a salad involving pineapple and cream cheese, and some kind of boiled-to-death vegetable.
Dessert was pineapple upside down cake. We went to church on Sunday morning and I would be devastated if I had to put on my winter coat over my new dress and boots on over my new shoes.
We got Easter baskets, and it was made clear from a very early age ~~ NO HOLLOW BUNNIES
As an adult, we followed the Italian family tradition, with southern California touches. Honey-baked ham, lasagne, Italian sausage and peppers, stuffed artichokes, roasted asparagus, canolli, wheat pie etc.
Easter baksets in the morning, usually filled with mostly spring toys (kites, yoyos, jacks, jumpropes, etc. a new bathing suit, and some candy; again, no hollow bunnies); then Mass; and then Grandma and Papa and the kids would hold Easter eggs hunts over and over and over.
We are Italian American.
We eat Crescia de pascua, a cheese bread with ground pepper; apizza gain, also known as ham pie, ours is made in large casserole dishes; rice pie, flavored with lemon and contain maraschino cherries; cream pie, flavored with lemon and the cherries again; ricotta pie, flavored with orange, my favorite of the dessert pies; there is a wheat pie but no one likes it so we don't make it any more. For dinner we used to do crown roast of pork but for the last ten years or so we have done either leg or racks of lamb. If the weather is warm my favorite is the leg of lamb on the grill outside. We always have a pasta course- ravioli, manicotti, vegetarian lasagna, pasta primavera, stuffed shells, sweet potto gnocchi have all made appearances. First course used to be fruit cup with sorbet or sherbet. I think we are having antipasto platter this year.
On Good Friday we typically eat pizza or eggplant Parmesan. Saturday we usually eat ham. We dyed eggs on Fridays as well. My father and I try to watch the Ten Commandments every year if possible (haven't figured out why, we should probably be watching Ben Hur or the Passion of the Christ).
My mother didn't believe in too much candy so our Easter baskets were like mini Christmases.
At 28 and 25 she still insists on an Easter basket.
I will be married in October and the actual kids will not be joining for Easter. We have "grandchildren" at ages 28, 25, 12, 9, 3 and infant. My mom and her youngest sister are 12 years apart. Gramma will not be coming down this year so I think it will just be my parents, sister, fiancé, aunt, uncle and a family friend. I prefer large family gatherings but it is what it is.
Picturing in my mind all these delicious components of the Italian Easter feast, can't help but feel a bit like a character in one of my favorite Garrison Keillor Lake Wobegon stories -- a Lutheran boy watching wistfully from a distance as the Catholics assemble in all their pageantry for a parade as part of the Blessing of the Animals. ;>
My Mennonite grandparents settled in Manitoba by way of south Russia. Growing up there were plenty of relatives and many reasons for family gatherings, but Easter sticks out in my memory as one of my favourite of the holiday dinners. It still is.
Apart from the usual ham and potatoes, at Easter my Oma would make these glorious marble-sized meatballs smothered in a mushroom based gravy with tiny button mushrooms floating around in the pot. I got the recipe from an aunt recently and was shocked to learn that many of the ingredients of my beloved gravy came out of a tin! I still devour them whenever they appear at the table, sodium and preservatives be darned.
Easter always, always involved obst zuppe (aka obst moos) which was a cold dessert soup made out of various reconstituted dried fruits (apple, prune, apricots, currants, cherries,& raisins) and was what I looked forward to the most. Some families added cornstarch to thicken, or cinnamon, sometimes cream, but we kept it very simple and our version only had the fruit and water. After my Oma passed away, my Opa, who was never very proficient in the kitchen, began taking over the task after my younger self started lamenting an Easter without obst zuppe. That lovely man would put the fruit into the pot whole, and by the time it had re-hydrated, the small prunes and apricots had swelled many times their size and the rest of us in the family would use our teaspoons to discreetly cut the pieces into manageable sizes, while the bottoms of our bowls rattled around with all the cherry and prune pits he forgot to remove. I've since been the one making the soup (got some on the stove right now) and every time I do my prep I start giggling at that charming memory.
And there there is paska. The Menno version of paska differs from the Ukranian one-ours has no raisins, with plenty of eggs and sugar and a touch of lemon, topped with an icing sugar glaze covered with colourful non-pareils. My Oma, frugal woman that she was, would always bake the paska in large tomato tins and the bread would exlode impressively over the sides of the cans. There was always an excess of bulbous bread tops with which to ice.
Alongside the paska we would have a sweetened cheese spread, consisting of boiled egg yolks and dry cottage cheese pushed through a sieve, mixed with butter and heavy cream (not exactly diet food!) and generously slathered over the eater's slice to taste.
Our family has tried hard over the years to keep the tradition alive by making all the same Easter foods that we remember from childhood and I hope to pass along those memories and recipes to my own offspring. And now if you'll excuse me, I have some obst zuppe to attend to....
I grew up in Pennsylvania and am of Czech/mutt descent. My family was not religious, so no church going was involved. We had the egg hunt, inside if the weather was bad (and it usually was). Always plastic eggs filled with small money, and you also had to find your basket of candy.
Dinner was always ham, scalloped potatoes and non descript green beans.
This is one menu I hold on to into adulthood with some tweaks. I cooked Easter dinner for the fam for the first time last year at my brothers house. Sadly, it was shortly after my grandmother's funeral. But my ham with spicy/sweet glaze, truffled whipped potatoes and haricots verts with slivered almonds perked everyone up a bit :)
It's a menu I'll keep for this year, on a much smaller scale as it'll be just me and the mr. for this one.
I love this thread, Breadcrumbs!
I grew up in Maryland, and my maternal grandmother was from Northeast, MD, and my paternal grandmother was from Tidwater Virginia. We are the ultimate WASP family with no interesting ethnic cuisine in sight.
When I was young, Christmas was spent at the grandparents' but my parents hosted Easter as far back as I can remember. We would get our new church dresses (I have 3 sisters) and shoes for Easter, go to church and take our Easter baskets along to visit our grandparents, who lived close to the church and not far from each other. I have a pic below before the extra sisters arrived.
My mother always did a leg of lamb (from her Scottish nothern Maryland family) and a Virginia ham (from my father's southern family), and we still have both for Easter.
Everything else is variable depending on when Easter falls and what looks good at the time. My sisters control most of the menu these days. This year, I've been asked to bring the mint jelly and mint sauce, which is usually jarred. I've decided to make the mint sauce from scratch with malt vinegar. I sure hope it lives up to the jar. Sometimes, people don't like change....
Simple - chopped mint, enough malt vinegar to give you some drizzling consistency, enough sugar to soften the vinegar.
I like it quite tangy, so don't add too much sugar. But just adjust for your own tastes.
Unfortunately the UK's bad weather and the early Easter have combined to ensure that there's no sign of mint growing in my back garden. Have bought some today at the supermarket - comes from Egypt.
Easter eggs still get dyed and hunted, even though the children are 28 and 31. The eggs are used for egg salad sandwiches made with plenty of chopped celery, home made mayonnaise, and garam masala on toasted home made white bread. Dinner is a roasted leg of lamb studded with garlic and brushed in olive oil and coated with salt, pepper, and fresh rosemary, steamed asparagus, rice pilaf, and a good red wine, usually a nice Napa cab. We are still searching for the right dessert. I am thinking trifle or pear tart.
Like Christmas, Easter Sunday was mandatory church and obligatory temple time with Grandma and the parents.
The week before, Grandma would direct the rest of the family in prepping dinner for Easter dinner. Then while church was going on, my grandfather would start cooking the ham, chicken & dumplings, glazed carrots, collard greens, sweet potatoes, and pinto beans.
Yes, almost every year it was the same exact meal ever since my grandfather got back from the Pacific War in '46 (excluding the two years he was stuck out in Korea).
We would all sit down to eat around 4pm, and after eating, my grandfather and his Army buddies would retreat to his bar out in the shed for beers and "Man Drinks", and to watch whatever game they could tune in on his old b&w tv/radio.
Meanwhile my uncles would hide the eggs in the backyard, and we would have an Easter egg hunt with my brother, cousins, some of the other boys from the neighborhood families.
Then my grandfather, dad, uncles, and we older kids would go rabbit or raccoon hunting in the back pastures later that evening.
Roast leg of lamb, spanakopita, Easter bread, dyed hard-boiled eggs, a Laura Secord Secord egg and usually a large Italian chocolate egg, filled with a toy or more treats inside. That Italian chocolate egg would last us for months.
My background is a blend of Virginia and Pennsylvania WASPs. Easter is always lamb (father's Pennsylvania family), dessert is always Robert E Lee cake (orange layer cake from my mother's Virignia family).
All the sides and trimmings vary from year to year but we usually have scalloped potatoes, peas/asparagus, salad and carrots. I often also make a chocolate cake as a secondary dessert offering.
Easter baskets filled with candies was never a family tradition. My mother didn't care for candy nor do I and neither do my children. When I was a child my mother would buy an egg-shaped cake for my basket in lieu of any chocolate candy or Peeps that other people might get. My father, however, did get a basket filled with jellybeans - the one and only time he ever eats them.
We always go to church and the dinner is a large mid-afternoon affair.