A look at the Meaning of the Easter Ham Tradition

April 1st, 2015

easter hamTraditions always have a meaning. The word tradition has an implication of long and storied custom transmitted from generation to generation. There are few stronger, present traditions than that found at Easter time. Colored eggs, chocolate rabbits, baked hams and roasted lamb all have one thing in common; Easter.



What brought the components together to form a collective Easter tradition, exactly? Celebrating the resurrection and rebirth in the spring is where all these themes are derived from and how they all relate. The name itself was even derived from the name of a German/Anglo-Saxon goddess, Eostre, representing the dawn-rebirth of the year.

The Eostre goddess was represented with a rabbit that laid eggs, representative of newborn or reborn life. Rabbits, meanwhile, are prolific breeders in the spring. Even the practice of Easter egg hunting is representative of hunting for a suitable mate. Eggs are a big part of Easter foods, whether eaten alone or in all the fancy baked breads of the season.

The traditional Easter ham is representative of what Jesus and his apostles ate at the Last Supper. Though he undoubtedly ate lamb, the contemporary Easter traditions are deeply rooted in Nordic and Bavarian European culture are much more centric on pork than lamb. And again, tracing back to historically springtime traditions, hams, from pigs were slaughtered in the winter, salted and smoked to eat in the springtime before fresh meats were available.

What made the Easter tradition what it is today had a very long history and rife with symbolism. The transmission of the customs making up what Christians look forward to every single year has a long and meaningful past full of meaning and sentiment. This is what makes Easter ham ingrained in the annual observance and steeped in history.

Written by Laura Oberle

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