Five Easter food traditions from around Europe
We are just a few days away from Easter celebrations and shop windows are already chock- full of chocolate eggs. Have you ever wondered where this custom comes from? It seems that it was Louis XVI who had the first one made at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Eggs as gifts to be exchanged is an even older tradition, however.
“The ancient Egyptians and Persians used to give each other eggs at the beginning of spring, as a symbol of new life”.
But Easter food traditions around Europe extend far beyond just eggs. Let’s take a look at what characterizes the celebrations in a variety of countries.
The Spanish Semana Santa is a very heartfelt celebration, attracting curious onlookers from all over the world. Particularly visually impactful are the festivities that take place in Seville, during which statues of the saints are carried around the city. Two desserts are emblematic of the Easter season in Spain: the Torrijas and the Mona de Pascua. The first one is a take on French toast without eggs; bread soaked in milk, cooked in a pan and sprinkled with a sugar syrup. Mona is a cake made of almonds and chocolate.
Returning to that famous rebirth symbol, the egg, in Germany Easter lunch often begins with this dish. It consists of boiled eggs accompanied by a sauce called Grüne Sosse made of yogurt and fresh herbs. A simple dish that brings to mind the meaning of the event and brings together families ahead of the Easter bonfire ritual. To end the meal, Osterlamm, the Easter lamb, is prepared. Butter- and egg-based, the lamb is prepared with different regional variations and leftovers are often served for breakfast the next day.
In Russia, on Easter morning, people go to the grave of a family member to enjoy a lavish picnic. It may seem strange, but it is a deeply moving custom, celebrated with dishes such as Kulitch, a cake similar to a brioche, stuffed with dried fruits and covered with ricotta cheese icing, or with Paska, a dish made of cheese, cream, butter and sugar. Kicking off the celebration, however, is a special drink, Kisel, made of oatmeal.
Lamb is a dish common at the Easter table across many European countries. France is no exception: here, the traditional spread includes a Gigot d’Agneau Pascal. In this recipe, leg of lamb is marinated in garlic, oil, salt, pepper and herbs from Provence. Lamb is also used in the area of Lorraine, with typical cookies which resemble it.
According to Greek tradition, in the forty days before Easter, only completely natural foods should be consumed, and on Palm Sunday, lunch is fish-based. On Easter, instead, lamb once again makes an appearance, present in a soup called Mayeritsa made of the entrails of the animal and accompanied by red painted eggs. Another version is Ovelias, lamb cooked on the grill and marinated with red wine, spices, lemon and onion.
“What all of Europe has in common is the presence of the whole family around the table to celebrate Easter and enjoy good food”.
Patrizia, born in 1992, graduated in Architecture at the Politecnico of Milano. I’ve always loved this world of stories, stories and construction techniques, but what really didn’t convince me was the idea of spending my life between subway trips, fixed schedules, patterns and habit. It was exactly in front of the possibility of having a permanent contract that I decided to leave for America. To do what, you may be wondering? To realize the first of my many dreams: being a cook. And here I am, writing stories of my travels, of the people I met during my transoceanic trips and handing down the recipes of the dishes I taste around the world.