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Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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Easter is a spring festival, a time for celebration in the Christian calendar after a late winter fast, and one that contains echoes of older, pagan rituals. The holiday is celebrated with sweetmeats in exuberant variety, prepared throughout the Christian world at a season when the earth is still barren: nut cookies, buttery fruit breads, fruitcakes, marzipans, molded heaps of new butter and sweetened curds, chocolate eggs, and sugar-dusted butter lambs. Common to all these special foods is sweetness, and all are baked in a quantity meant for sharing. The sharing of foodstuffs, particularly when pleasurable, is a powerful weapon in the armory of all religions, a reality not lost on the pragmatic fathers of the early church, who adapted their celebration of resurrection to the old festival of procreation. Those who take their lead from the founding fathers of Rome—including Italians, Greeks, French, Spaniards, Portuguese, and Russians—named the festival for Pesach, the Jewish feast of thanksgiving at which sweetened unmilled grains are eaten. Those who took their lead from the Norsemen chose Eostre, Norse goddess of spring and rebirth, whose name has given the word “Easter” to English.