- Holidays and Celebrations
Easter and Lent Traditions: Egg Frittata, Easter Bread and Palm Crosses
The Meaning of Easter
Although you may associate Easter with eggs and the Easter bunny, it has a much deeper meaning for Christians throughout the world. Each year, Christians celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter, which is preceded by Lent, a 40-day period of fasting, penance and prayer.
Easter is a special religious holiday with many family traditions. Growing up Catholic allowed me to learn not only about the religious meaning of Easter, but also about the foods, activities and events that took place during the Easter season.
Easter does not have a fixed date on the calendar. The First Council of Nicaea, a group of Christian who met in Nicaea in 325 AD, established the date of Easter to be the first Sunday after the Pascal full moon following the March equinox. The date of Easter varies between March 22nd and April 25th.
What is Lent?
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, when blessed ashes made from the previous Palm Sunday, are administered on the foreheads of Christians in the sign of the cross, by priests, ministers or other clergymen.
In the Catholic Church, Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting, abstinence from meat and repentance.
You may have heard the expression “Fat Tuesday” which is the day before Ash Wednesday. This is also known as Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day. “Fat Tuesday” is a day that some indulge in fancy or “fatty” foods since the Lenten season, including abstinence of meat of Fridays for Catholics, and making sacrifices, is about to begin. Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday” and refers to the carnival celebrations that begin on or after the Epiphany before Ash Wednesday.
Lent continues for approximately 6 weeks. The last week of Lent is called Holy Week. It includes the religious holidays of Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter Sunday), Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. The day after Holy Saturday is Easter Sunday.
Palm Sunday and Palm Weaving
Palm Sunday, also known as Passion Sunday, commemorates the coming of the Messiah into Jerusalem. On Palm Sunday, there is normal the blessing of the Palm, or palm leaves. Several palm leaves are given to each person who attends the church mass.
Growing up, my mother taught me how to make crosses from the palm given on Palm Sunday. I have fond memories of Palm Sunday when our family sat together making crosses and even baskets from palm leaves. It was a fun craft for all ages. We made crosses from 2 pieces of palm, which typically looked like the image in this photo on the right.
How to Make a Palm Cross
In this next video, look at the beautifully weaved palm items shown at the beginning and end of the video.
On Good Friday, the Church mourns for the death of Jesus Christ.
Some churches have a meditation and prayer service to reflect on the Three Hours of Agony, from midday until 3pm to commemorate the hours that Jesus suffering dying on the cross.
Holy Saturday Easter Vigil
On the night before Easter, on Holy Saturday, one of the longest and most solemn liturgical services in the Roman Catholic Church takes place: the Easter Vigil. For anyone who has never attended an Easter Vigil, it can last up to 3 or 4 hours, and consists of several parts: the Service of the Light, the Liturgy of the Word, the Liturgy of Baptism, where new members of the church receive the sacrament of Baptism, and the Holy Eucharist. Some churches have a candle lighting ceremony.
Egg Frittata and Easter Bread on Easter Sunday
Easter Sunday is a celebration of the risen Christ. Christians attend church and then feast on various traditions dishes on this special day.
For breakfast or brunch, growing up, we always feasted on a delicious egg frittata. Frittata (pronounced “fri – tat – taa”) is an egg based Italian dish, similar to quiche. Frittatas may contain meats, cheeses (traditionally, ricotta cheese), vegetables and even pasta. They can be as thick as a hearty quiche, or a bit thinner, depending on the ingredients and preferences.
Our family’s traditional frittata contained lots of eggs, chopped up ham, some ricotta cheese, and some kind of vegetable, which was usually asparagus. As the years passed, I stopped using ricotta cheese and just went with a basic, hearty omelette filled with healthy ingredients such as eggs, lowfat cheese and vegetables. I substitute spinach for asparagus. My frittata today looks more like this:
Here’s a healthy frittata recipe that I found to share:
In additional to frittata, another favorite family tradition was Easter Bread. Local bakeries traditional make traditional Easter Bread by baking twisted bread in the oven with decorated eggs. The finished product typically looks like this:
The photo above was Easter Bread that I ordered in the past from a local bakery. It was hot and fresh out of their oven, and quite delicious! It’s a sweat bread, and best eaten when it’s fresh. The eggs in the bread are normally removed to make egg salad or add to any dish that calls for hard-boiled eggs.
Along with eating egg frittata, Easter Bread (containing hard boiled eggs), the eggs don’t stop there on Easter. Of course no Easter would be complete without the traditional coloring of hard-boiled eggs and displaying them in a pretty Easter basket.
You can use freshly decorated eggs, or plastic eggs filled with tasty treats. You can also use plastic eggs filled with prizes and treats, and hide them around the house or yard for a fun Easter Egg Hunt!
Ponzette for Easter Dinner
For Easter dinner, our family traditionally had an Italian favorite, called “Ponzette” which was actually stuffed breast of veal. I always heard that word growing up, but I recently looked it up to see if it was a real word. I think the real word is panzetta but my mom always pronouned it as “pon-zette”. I have never made it, and only remember having it growing up as a child.
Over the years, Easter dinner at our house varied but always seemed to include either veal, ham or chicken, and that was the main course. However, like Thanksgiving, Easter was also filled with more courses in our Italian family. There was usually some kind of pasta served as well, with homemade meatballs. Incidentally, I don’t really eat veal and haven’t had ponzette since I was a little girl. I don’t think too many people make it anymore.
Traditional Antipasto Platter
And remember those eggs from the Easter Bread? Those eggs can be used to make a delicious antipasto dish, filled with sliced hard-boiled eggs, cheese, salami, tomatoes and olives, over a bed of lettuce. This served as either an appetizer or salad to accompany the main course.