Growing up, our strict Catholic family celebrated Easter as all good Christians should – with church and chocolate.
(In that order, of course.)
However, when it came to the celebratory meal, there was no “Easter Feast” per se; we just ate what we normally ate, but on a slightly grander scale. Hence, sometimes my mom would make one of our favourite dishes, or she’d put out a larger spread of the regular foods we ate. But as traditions go, it was as simple as 1) go to church, and 2) eat lots of chocolate.
So when I married into an Austrian family, I was quite intrigued by their traditional Easter meal – a tradition that my husband has assured me has been carried on for as long as he can remember. It goes something like this:
Hard-boiled Easter eggs are carefully dyed and presented to the guests. This is the first food that makes it to your plate; traditionally, you’re supposed to crack the egg on your head for luck!
Next, the cheese plate is passed around. Thinly sliced European varieties that melt in your mouth. Since I have a weakness for cheese, I had to pace myself – especially when I saw the dollops of triple creme brie invitingly placed on top. You can also see the German potato salad bowl – fresh and tart, it’s a traditional picnic food that has a place at the Easter table.
Following the cheese plate, a selection of smoked and cured meats is offered. Hungarian salami, Polish kielbasa, German speck (similar to prosciutto) and more. The saltiness and smokiness of the meat is set off by the other fresh ingredients, particularly the eggs and potato salad.
Freshly grated horseradish is the condiment of choice to be served with the meal. The pungent, spicy radish is best spooned over sliced eggs or mixed into the potato salad. However, be sure to place the bowl away from where you’re seated – the aromatic fumes from the grated horseradish were making me tear up, similar to cutting through an onion.
Finally, a homemade Easter bread is passed around the table. Slightly sweetened and very soft, it complements the saltiness of the meats and cheese. In many European countries, there are various traditions surrounding the use of bread during the Easter holiday; traditionally, the practice of eating Easter bread or sweetened “communion” bread traces its origin back to Byzantium and the Orthodox Christian church. (It’s also quite divine with butter and jam the following morning.)
This was the first year that the boys were old enough to truly understand the traditions. They helped themselves to Easter eggs, and with a little help from Opa, Ryder was able to crack one to enjoy. We finished the afternoon with an Easter egg hunt that had the boys scouring through the entire home.
Special thanks to my stellar mother-in-law who always puts forth a bountiful feast.
What are some of your Easter traditions? I’m always interested in hearing how different cultures celebrate the holiday. And, did the Easter bunny make a stop at your home this year?