Yesterday afternoon, as I was eating my sandwich which consisted of ham left over from Sunday’s Easter dinner, something occurred to me. That’s always dangerous because who knows where that’s going to lead? Anyway, I began to wonder why ham became the traditional Easter Sunday meal. After all, Easter is the celebration of Jesus Christ rising from the dead and saving all of us lowly sinners. You know, Jesus, the faithful Jew, who never ate a piece of pork in the 34 years he was on this earth.
Yes, I know that many people celebrate Easter without a single thought about Jesus. These folks are focused on the bunny who hops around the earth on Easter morning delivering eggs and candy to the kiddies. I guess I can see why rabbit didn’t become the traditional Easter meal. It would be hard to tell Junior that the Easter bunny won’t be back next year because he was eaten. And doesn’t he taste a lot like chicken?
But why ham, one of the foods that Jews believe God prohibits them from eating? I put my sandwich down next to my half-eaten chocolate bunny and looked it up on the internet. There is, my friends, a simple explanation, and I’m about to tell you what that is.
Easter began being formally celebrated by Christians in the Second Century. It was the first Council of Nicaea that decided that Easter should fall sometime between March 22 and April 25 after the first Spring full moon.
Now picture life in those early days, all the way to the 20th Century, when refrigerators became common. In the fall, lots of folks would slaughter the animals that they have been raising and would then salt them and hang them in the cellar to be used in the Spring. You know, Spring, when we celebrate Easter. Thus, ham became a traditional Easter meal. Caroline Ingalls would have Charles go down to the cellar and bring up the rump of the pig that she has been salting down over the winter so that she could rinse it off and put it in the oven with some apples and onions and whatever other fruits and vegetables were left in the root cellar. Voila! Easter dinner.
Of course, another traditional Easter meal is lamb, and that one is easier for me to understand. I didn’t even have to put down my lamb lollipop to figure that out. Behold, the Lamb of God. Lamb was often sacrificed to God for many reasons. Abraham killed a lamb when God gave him a pass on killing his son Isaac.
Because I can never make up my mind, I always serve both lamb and ham at my Easter feast. And not just because they rhyme, sort of. Call me Dr. Suess. I don’t fix ham any other time of the year. It’s not my favorite meat, but I will tell you that it takes so darn good to me every Easter — and for a week or so afterwards.
As for lamb, well LAMB.
By the way, doesn’t anyone have any interesting ways for me to use a beautiful meaty ham bone?