Last week a friend’s little boy was eagerly – indeed passionately – telling me about what he called “the Jewish Easter”. When I realised he meant Passover, it suddenly struck me that the Italian word for Easter – Pasqua – is derived from Pesach, Hebrew for Passover.
He had learned about the Jewish flight from slavery in Egypt during his preparation for first communion, which requires two years of after-school bible study. Despite the etymology, I still find it strange to liken Easter to Passover.
Sicilians celebrate Easter by eating lamb, because the gospels say that Jesus and the apostles ate a lamb at the last supper. Sicilians in Palermo also make Easter lambs from martorana (marzipan), which make Easterish decorations as well as being delicious.
My husband brought home so many this year that they formed a large flock. He will be called “Bo Peep” by me and my son until they are all eaten up.
As with so many other traditions, Sicilians are going global, so their lambs often have a few Easter eggs lying at their feet.
The egg started with the Eastern Orthodox Christians, where eggs symbolised rebirth from death long before Christianity. This symbolises the resurrection perfectly, of course.
Eggs were also one of the foods traditionally given up for Lent. Giving up eating eggs in spring time is another tradition going back to the dawn of time, since spring is the correct season to let your eggs hatch out into a new clutch of chicks. You have to give up drinking so much milk and renounce having the cream, as well, when your cows have newborn calves to feed. The arrival of Christianity and Lent gave everyone the chance to feel pious about the necessity of eating rather miserly food for a while in Spring time.
Well, the chicks have hatched, the calves and lambs are fed, and I think it is time to feast.