Easter Food Traditions in America
Easter is a holiday deeply rooted in tradition. Every family has their own Easter festivities, from going to church to Easter eggs hunts in the backyard. However, many traditions remain the same no matter where you go in the US, especially when it comes to the food served on this holy holiday.
While you may be familiar with the classic Easter ham, you may not know why ham is such a popular Easter food. So let’s find out!
From chocolate Easter bunnies to hot cross buns, we will tell you all about the most popular Easter food traditions in the US and how they came to be.
9 Easter Food Traditions in the US
1. Hot Cross Buns
Hot cross buns are a sweet Easter staple. They are yeast-raised rolls that are classically made with butter, milk, cinnamon, and raisins. The buns are garnished with a cross made from either orange peels or frosting. Some bakers simply score the buns before baking to make the cross symbol embedded into the roll.
Nobody knows exactly when hot cross buns became part of the Easter day tradition but the buns themselves date back to the middle ages. They are also a popular Easter treat in Ireland.
Many believe that Christian monks first developed hot cross buns and gave them out to the poor. In the 1500s, people thought the buns contained magical powers so Queen Elizabeth I banned their sale so the magic wouldn’t be abused. She allowed hot cross buns to be sold only on Good Friday, Christmas, and at funerals.
The most widely accepted story of hot cross buns at Easter is that the buns were forbidden during Lent, when dairy couldn’t be eaten. On Easter, when dairy was allowed again, hot cross buns would be baked and savored. The spices in the buns represent the spices used to embalm Jesus and the cross on top represents the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
No matter why hot cross buns are an easter tradition, they are quite delicious especially when served warm. You can find them in almost every bakery in the US around Easter time or try making your own at home.
2. Chocolate Eggs
Come Easter time, chocolate eggs start lining the shelves of grocery and candy stores. But what do eggs have to do with Easter? And how did chocolate eggs become an Easter tradition?
Christians are not allowed to eat eggs during the period of Lent. Eating eggs on Easter Sunday, at the end of Lent, became a traditional way of celebrating the end of Lent. Eggs also represent rebirth and are symbolic of new beginnings since they contain new life. You can view eggs in relation to Jesus’s rebirth and see why they are an Easter classic.
Chocolate eggs, specifically, were not part of the Easter season until the Cadbury chocolate company started making chocolate eggs around 1875. The eggs were marketed and sold during Easter and were quite popular, especially with children. The tradition of chocolate eggs on Easter stuck and is still one that many of us enjoy today.
Small, chick-shaped marshmallows are an Easter staple that is quite a mystery. There is great speculation as to why Peeps are a symbol of Easter and we may never know exactly why Peeps and Easter go hand in hand.
Peeps and chicks in general do not have much to do with Jesus or the celebration of Easter as a religious holiday. Although, just as eggs represent rebirth, chicks can be equated with new life. Easter is a holiday that reflects on new beginnings and you could say the chick fits into this metaphor.
No matter the reason why Peeps are part of Easter, we think that they are here to stay. In fact, Americans will purchase about 700 million Marshmallow Peeps this Easter. Sounds like this is an Easter food tradition that is here to stay!
4. Easter Bread
Bread is very often associated with Jesus. It is used to symbolize the body of Christ and has always been a part of the Easter celebration. The type of bread enjoyed on Easter varies from country to country but it is typically a sweet, yeast-raised bread.
Easter bread in the US is most often a braided bread, shaped into a wreath. Dyed, hard-boiled eggs are pressed into the dough and baked into the bread. The eggs, once again, represent rebirth and the new beginnings of Easter. Eating bread on Easter is supposed to bring good luck and also peace.
5. Cooked Ham
Ham may be the most recognized Easter food. Whether it be a honey-baked ham, a maple glazed ham, or a simple spiral-cut ham, many people make this delicious meat for Easter dinner.
Ham has long been a staple at Easter simply due to its availability. For centuries, spring has been the time when pigs are ready to be processed, making ham readily available around Easter. The holiday is a time to feast, break Lent, and gather and eat in large groups. A good-sized, fresh ham is the natural choice!
Pretzels are an old Easter tradition with deep roots in Christian history. Dairy products are not permitted during Lent so Christians would make pretzels from simple flour and water. The snack was enjoyed throughout Lent and also part of the Easter table.
The word “pretzel” actually translates to mean “little arms”. The twists are meant to look like arms connected in prayer. Pretzels may not be the most popular Easter food but they definitely have strong connections to the religious holiday.
7. Easter Eggs
Many children in the US will dye hard-boiled eggs this year as part of a classic Easter tradition. While modern Easter eggs are pastel colors with fun patterns, the eggs were traditionally dyed red to represent the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed on the cross.
Exactly when dyeing eggs became part of the Easter tradition has been lost to history, but the story goes that Mary Magdalene visited the tomb of Jesus and discovered he was no longer there. Upon arrival, the basket of eggs she was carrying to give to Jesus turned red. Years later, the Vatican would annually send the king a silver egg to mark the Easter season.
By the 19th century, this tradition had evolved and dying Easter eggs became a common household activity during Easter.
8. Roasted Lamb
If there isn’t a ham on the Easter table, there is likely a lamb. Roasted lamb is the other main meat that is associated with Easter.
Lamb has long been the main meal for the Jewish holiday called Passover. Passover and Easter fall around the same time of year. Decades ago, many Jewish people were converting to Christianity and they brought the tradition of eating lamb along with them.
Conveniently, Jesus is also known as the Lamb of God. This makes the lamb dinner symbolic of Jesus’ sacrifice and has remained a food tradition for just this reason.
Most children in the US are very familiar with the Easter bunny. The bunny is the iconic symbol of Easter and has been for decades. There is no religious significance to a bunny being part of Easter and the connection is purely based on timing.
Easter falls in the early spring, the same time that baby bunnies are being born. The abundance of cute, furry bunnies during Easter turned into the little animal being the face of the season.
Since we all know that bunnies eat carrots, we must also serve carrots at Easter! Having carrots on the Easter dinner table is kind of like leaving cookies out for Santa on Christmas. It is fun to do and goes with the theme of the season. Easter bunnies, carrots, and springtime all go hand in hand.
Easter Food Traditions in America
With so many delicious Easter foods, we encourage you to try them all. Each Easter food is unique and holds a different special meaning. You will surely have an amazing holiday with all of these American classic foods on your table. Enjoy!
Related: Top 29 American Desserts to Try Out