Traditional Easter Brunch Menu

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Traditional Easter brunch menus are loaded with as much history and symbolism as they are with flavor. Some of the food items hold religious meanings, while others are carryovers of long-ago pagan customs. Some favorite Easter dishes grew in popularity many generations ago for practical reasons, such as the timing of the slaughter of livestock and the lack of refrigeration.

Renewal

  • Certain Easter brunch foods became popular because they symbolized rebirth, which is associated with springtime. During pre-Christian times, eggs were believed to represent fertility. As Christianity spread, eggs were considered to be depictions of Jesus' resurrection, with the image of him rising beyond the tomb just as a bird breaks through the shells of its egg. New life also was symbolized in serving lamb at Easter, because spring was a season for welcoming the first baby sheep.

Forbidden Foods

  • Several items that are traditional Easter brunch staples became fashionable because long ago they were forbidden during the Lenten season. Eggs were banned during the 40-day fast of Lent, which made them seem more desirable during the Easter celebration. The demand for pretzels increased in the Middle Ages because they contained eggs, milk and lard or butter, which were forbidden during Lenten celebrations, thereby making them welcome treats when Easter arrived. Hot cross buns were by law only to be made on Good Friday.

Religious Symbolism

  • Certain foods capture the holiness of the Easter season. The twisted dough of pretzels is considered to be symbolic of praying arms, while the three holes are believed to represent the holy trinity. Russian Easter bread, known as "kulich," is made with extra sugar and then iced with Cyrillic letters that translate into "Christ is risen." Lamb also is a traditional Easter brunch food because it symbolizes Christ as the "lamb of God."

Red

  • According to The Chicken Book, eggs were colored red as long ago as 500 B.C. to symbolize the life force and were given during festivals celebrating the spring equinox. The color red appears in several Easter food traditions as well. Greek Easter bread called "tsoureki" is baked with a red-colored egg in the center to signify Christ's blood. In Latin cultures, eggs were dyed red to announce the joy of the Easter holiday.

Ham

  • Ham typically is served at Easter brunches and its origin is more practical than any of the other standard menu items. Pigs were slaughtered during autumn and the curing process wasn't finished until springtime. Not only did this coincide with the Easter meal but also pork had to be enjoyed quickly because of the absence of refrigeration. In addition, ham was a favorite food because pigs were considered to be bearers of good luck.

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  • Photo Credit easter table 1 image by Madrider from Fotolia.com
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