Easter 2024: Why Is Lamb A Part Of Every Easter Meal?

Are you planning a good ol’ Easter lunch with some roasted lamb and potatoes or maybe a tender braised lamb stew? Of course, consuming lamb on Easter is tied to a long-standing tradition, with deep roots in both mythology and history, spanning various cultures and religions. Lamb’s associated with Easter stems back to pre-Christian times, particularly the first Passover Seder, a Jewish ritual feast. 

Lamb’s relevance as a traditional Passover food can be traced back to the biblical story found in the book of Exodus, the Israelites were instructed to sacrifice a lamb and mark their doorposts with its blood during the Passover festival. The blood of the lamb served as a sign for God to pass over the houses of the Israelites, sparing them from the final plague inflicted upon the Egyptians, the death of the firstborn. 

Not to mention, in Christianity, the lamb holds profound significance as a symbol of sacrifice and redemption. Jesus Christ is often referred to as the "Lamb of God" who sacrificed himself for the salvation of humanity. The association between Jesus and the sacrificial lamb is deeply rooted in biblical narratives, particularly in the New Testament. The Gospel of John, for instance, portrays Jesus as the Passover lamb whose sacrifice liberates believers from sin and death.

According to history, Ashkenazi Jews historically did not eat lamb at Passover since they considered eating lamb as equivalent, to eating the sacrifice meant for god. However, the Sephardic Jews, who settled further westward, ate lamb at Passover. The imagery of the sacrificial lamb is central to Christian theology, emphasizing themes of atonement, forgiveness, and resurrection. As such, lamb became closely linked with Easter, which commemorates the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Historical Significance and Culinary Traditions

Interestingly, for Christians, the Last Supper, which Jesus shared with his disciples before his crucifixion, is often interpreted as a Passover meal. Thus, the symbolism of the Passover lamb comes together with the Christian narrative of redemption and deliverance.

Lamb has been a staple in the diets of many ancient Mediterranean civilizations, including those of Greece, Rome, and Egypt. These cultures often incorporated lamb into their religious rituals and feasts. In fact, in ancient Greece, the lamb was commonly sacrificed to honour various deities, including Zeus and Apollo. The meat would then be shared among worshippers as part of communal meals and festivals.

Similarly, in ancient Rome, lamb was associated with religious rites and celebrations, particularly during the festival of Saturnalia, which coincided with the winter solstice. During the Middle Ages, lamb remained an important dietary and cultural symbol in Europe. It was often consumed during festive occasions, including Easter celebrations.

It’s also worth noting that in many European countries, lamb was one of the few fresh meats available during the early spring months, making it a natural choice for Easter feasts. Over time, the consumption of lamb during Easter became a widespread culinary tradition in Christian communities around the world. Roast lamb, in particular, emerged as a popular centrepiece for Easter meals, symbolizing both the sacrifice of Jesus and the joy of his resurrection.