When I was younger, we would always go to Poland for Easter. Same traditions, same procedures, same food every year. Over the last years, Easter traditions have become a bit loosened and I spent Easter holidays actually taking holidays. I have spent it in several countries now and thus have also experienced different food traditions that I’ll share with you today.
First of all, there is Good Friday, during which traditionally no meat is eaten, only fish. As for the week before Easter, and Easter Sunday, there is plenty of different traditions in every country.
In Poland, there will be plenty of different dishes for Easter Sunday. As in most countries, eggs will be coloured prior to Easter Sunday. Nowadays, this will be done with special egg paint, but back in the days and even when I was small, we boiled eggs in water along with different vegetables, to give them a natural colouring. Boil them with onion peels and they will get a deep brown colour, beetroot peels will make them pink and spinach gives them a green hue. Often they’re rubbed in lard after boiling, to make them beautifully shiny.
Easter Sunday is celebrated with a big early lunch, or late breakfast, so basically a brunch. There will be eggs in Mayonnaise, devilled eggs, cold cuts of braised meats, sausages and hams. All kinds of cheese, pickles and herring are part of Easter, too. The next course usually is Zurek, a sour soup made on the base of fermented flour. It’s served with a hard boiled egg, sausage and sometimes potatoes, depending on the family tradition. The main course can also be a braised meat with potatoes and surówkas, cold shredded salads of all kinds. Dessert is very special, as there will be different cakes, at least three, called mazurek. It’s a flat cake with a crumbly, buttery bottom, layered with for example rose jam and white chocolate, caramel cream or chocolate. Anything is possible.
In Germany, the most traditional dishes are Easter ham and the Easter lamb, which can also be found in other countries. The Easter lamb is served with potatoes and, if already available, with white asparagus.
A traditional cake that’s baked for Easter is a simple pound cake that’s baked in the shape of a lamb and dusted with powdered sugar. Braided sweet yeast loaves are also very traditional, similar to a brioche or challah.
In France, as in Germany and Spain, too, the Easter Lamb, baked with plenty of herbs is the most important dish during Easter. It’s often served with gratin Dauphinois, a very creamy and heavy potato gratin flavoured with garlic and laurel leaves. It’s delicious! Other popular dishes are for example Pâté de Pâques Berrichon, a meat terrine with a cooked egg in the middle and a crust of pastry dough or oeufs cocotte if Easter lunch is a breakfast instead.
When it comes to sweets, cinnamon palmiers, baked puff pastry, are very common in some parts of the country. Another favourite is , a brioche like pastry flavoured with orange juice, blossom or orange water and anise. It’s origins are in Algeria and Spain.
In Spain, also a very catholic country, traditions are various. The week before Easter is when celebrations start. It’s called Semana Santa, the holy week, and besides celebratory food, there will be processions all over Spain.
Sopa de ajo is a garlic soup made with stale bread and an egg on top, it’s a common starter that you’ll find on Spanish tables. Hornazo, a fried savoury pastry, filled with pork loin, chorizo and hard boiled eggs is common, too. On Easter Sunday, usually a nice Easter lamb is what you’ll find on people’s plates.
Traditional sweets are for example La Mona de Pascua, a fluffy cake, traditionally prepared with marzipan and topped with boiled eggs. Torrijas are another sweet pastry eaten during the Semana Santa. It’s like a French toast, but instead of soaking the bread in milk, it is very often soaked in wine. Makes it more fun, I guess! And let’s not forget Bueñelos, little fried balls that the French call beignets that are similar to donuts from their consistency.
In Sweden, as a protestant country, Easter isn’t bound to as many traditions as other countries. The day begins with hunting for Easter eggs, nowadays big colourful cardboard boxes in the shape of an egg, filled with all kinds of sweets.
For lunch, there will be a traditional smorgasbord, similar to what is served during Christmas, but with eggs as the focus. Hard boiled eggs with Mayonnaise, smoked, cured or cooked salmon, herrings, breads of all kinds, cheese pie made from the aromatic Swedish Vasterbotten cheese, all this will be neatly set up in a buffet-like manner. In the Nordics, fresh food was hard to find during Easter back in the day, because of the cold weather. No wonder, pickled and preserved food plays such a large role during this holiday, then.
Swedish snaps, of course, is part of an Easter celebration, too.