When we think of Easter in the U.S., we’re immediately filled with visions of chocolate bunnies, colored eggs, and the arrival of springtime. Whether you celebrate the religious aspect of this holiday or not, we love to indulge in seasonally inspired treats both sweet and savory. Easter is celebrated across the globe, too, so we investigated a few of our favorite food-focused festivities throughout Europe. Eat up.
Given its proximity to the Vatican (and storied Catholic history), it’s no surprise that Italy takes Easter very seriously. It’s called Pasqua, and is celebrated with many different traditions, including parades and torchlight processions in many towns throughout the country. Both Good Friday and Easter Monday (known as pasquetta) are observed as well. When it comes to food, Italy really takes the (pascal) cake. On Easter Monday, in a small Umbrian town called Panicale, crowds form to take part in a unique competition: cheese rolling. Competitors play a game called ruzzolone, in which enormous wheels of cheese are rolled around town in an effort to see which can travel the farthest! There are also a number of traditional Italian Easter foods that aren’t just for rolling around town, including pane di Pasqua, a slightly sweet bread braided with whole eggs (which are often dyed!). Some traditions include seasonal specialties like artichokes sautéed with potatoes, in addition to roasted or stewed spring lamb.The meal often begins with minestra di Pasqua, a hearty soup with various meats and kale. Ciambellone, a simple cake baked in a ring shape is also present at the Italian Easter table. Not to be forgotten is the pizza chiena, a layered savory Easter pie filled with salami and Italian cheeses. Into it.
In Portugal, there are scores of age-old traditions for the holiday they call Páscoa, including a traditional bread called folar. Similar to the Italian pane di Pasqua, the bread is baked with whole hard-boiled eggs inside and can be flavored with lemon zest, cinnamon, or anise.
The week of Easter is known as Semana Santa in Spain, and is the largest religious celebration in the country. Costumed processions happen throughout the country during this time, with members of the community called costaleros carrying floats throughout the streets. One of the most traditional foods eaten in Spain during this period is torrijas, which is most similar to what we know as French toast–bread soaked in milk, eggs, and seasonings, then cooked on a stove top. Hornazo, a bread stuffed with pork products and hard-boiled eggs, is also a classic, eaten most commonly on Easter Monday. Garlic-laced roasted lamb called cordero asado is also a very common dish during Semana Santa.
In Greece, Easter is often celebrated according to Greek Orthodox traditions, a significant one being to dye eggs red and use them in a game called tsougrisma (egg tapping). The festive meal consists of a sweet leavened bread called tsoureki in addition to roasted lamb and/or goat, and a soup called magiritsa, traditionally made with lamb offal. Koulourakia, a shaped or twisted cookie baked with an egg wash is also an important dessert in Greek Easter, along with melitinia, small goat cheese tartlets that hail from Santorini.
Pâques, as Easter is known in France, is an important holiday celebrated throughout the country, and similar to many nearby areas, chocolate eggs and a large roast lamb are significant dishes. Unlike other places, which dictate the delivery of Easter eggs by bunnies, in France, sweet treats (most often chocolate eggs or bells) are said to be delivered by les cloches de Pâques, or Easter bells, which aren’t rung between Thursday and Easter Sunday. There’s also an Easter cake called La Gâche de Vendée, a brioche-style baked good formed into an oval shape. In a town called Bessières, an enormous omelet is made each year in honor of Easter; apparently, 15,000 eggs were used in said omelet in 2016.
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