With Easter right around the corner, it’s time to pledge your allegiance: is your family Team Ham or Team Lamb? Before tempers rage and holiday scuffles ensue, let us look at the facts.
Ham: the meat some say is most traditionally associated with Easter. You might think ham winds up on the holiday table due to its status as a "Christian" meat, (prohibited for others by the religious laws of Judaism and Islam), but the origin lies in the early practices of the Pagans of Northern Europe. Having slaughtered and preserved the meat of their agricultural animals during the Blood Moon celebrations the previous autumn so they would have food throughout the winter months, they would celebrate the occasion by using up the last of the remaining cured meats.
The Pagan pantry also included raw honey, an ingredient that tempered the meat's richness and added yet another layer of celebratory accompaniment. In anticipation that the arrival of spring, with its emerging plants and wildlife, would provide them with fresh food in abundance, including honey, it was customary for many Pagans to begin fasting at the time of the vernal equinox, clearing the "poisons" (and excess weight) produced by the heavier winter meals that had been stored in their bodies over the winter. Perhaps this practice was the forerunner of "giving up" foods during the Lenten season—in anticipation of a feast on delicious foods like honey and ham.
Easter lamb, like Easter ham, has no shortage of supporters. Practically speaking, lamb would have been one of the first fresh meats available after a long winter, and thus fit for a feast. The practice likely also gained a foothold from the Passover tradition, carried over by Jews who converted to Christianity. According to the story of Exodus, Jews painted doorposts with sacrificial lamb’s blood (and feasted on the roast meat) in order to spare their firstborn sons from the wrath of God. Finally, Christians recognize Jesus as the “Lamb of God,” certainly no symbolic coincidence.
And honey with lamb? It never hurts. We like our lamb roasted in Orange Blossom Honey, which we later turn into a gravy to serve over the meat--juicy and falling off the bone.
So in the end, everybody wins. Team Ham, Team Lamb… each delicious in its own way, and who says you can’t serve both?