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Celebrating Easter In India

Mar 29, 2018 | 7 Mins

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Well we all have had our share of Easter goodies as kids, haven’t we?

Easter is celebrated around the world as a day that honours the resurrection of Christ. It is on this day that Jesus came back from the dead and rose from his tomb, on the third day after being crucified by the Romans.

It begins with Ash Wednesday which comes from an ancient Jewish custom of wearing dust on your forehead, symbolizing the dust from which God created all. Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting and penance, also marks the first day of Lent which is a 40-day fasting period where people abstain from certain foods or activities they like some exclude eggs, some meat, some people even give up an entire food group during this period. At the end of the Lenten period occurs Good Friday or Black Friday which is a Christian holiday observing Jesus being crucified and his death at Calvary.

Easter takes place on the third day after the crucifiction. It was settled in A.D. 325 by the Council of Bishops that Easter would fall on a Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox (better known as the first day of spring).

STORY OF THE BUNNY, EGG, LAMB & LILY
There are various symbolic attractions of Easter that signify the importance and essence of this day.

Easter Bunny:
It is symbolic of the bunny or hare’s fertility since Easter comes during pring and celebrates new life. Another belief system is related to the hare’s burrow - the hare coming out from his underground home metaphorically stands for Jesus coming out from his tomb.

Easter Eggs:
A symbol of life, various religious communities around the world have their own interpretations of the egg - Hindus, Egyptians, Persians and Phoenicians (ancient civilization that is modern Lebanon, parts of Syria and Israel) believed that the world began with an enormous egg and the Chinese, Persians and Greeks even gifted eggs during spring festivals in celebration of new life. Stories about the egg are as interesting as the history that surrounds Easter. According to an ancient Druid lore, serpent eggs were considered sacred and stood for life. There is another story that took place in 1290 where Edward I of England purchased 450 eggs, to be coloured or covered in gold leaf and these were distributed by him among the members of the royal household.

Image Ref: Google

Lamb:
Jesus was known as ‘Lamb of God’. This was due to the Jewish belief of sacrificing lambs for people’s sins and Christians believed that Jesus sacrificed for everyone. Even today, lamb is the star dish of Easter meals in many countries.

Lilies:
A recent addition to Easter celebrations are the lilies. Madonna lilies were often used by artists as a mark of innocence and purity, symbolising Mary. But they did not force-bloom well by the time Easter arrived so they were replaced by the Bermuda lillies which are famous as Easter lilies today.

EASTER THROUGH TIME
Every country celebrates Easter in different ways and over the many years and decades, various customs and traditions have been added to the basket of ways to celebrate the day.

Easter Egg hunt is a long-standing tradition that was started out in Germany where children used to look for pretzels while placing nests in secluded corners for the Easter bunny. The knots on the pretzel represented holding hands but this tradition was soon replaced by candy eggs and chocolate bunnies.

Easter was introduced to the American population by German immigrants and the craze of celebrating the day spread like wildfire among children. Christianity and Easter spread to the East mainly with the colonies created by the Portuguese and British Empires.

CELEBRATING EASTER IN INDIA
Celebrating Easter in a diverse country like India can be a unique sight to witness. While Easter egg hunts and Easter bunnies do make an appearance, Indian Christian families add their personal touch to the customs and traditions.

The roots of Easter can be found during the British rule in India as well as parts of erstwhile French and Portuguese colonies in the country. Back in the day on Easter, people attended mass which was followed by an amazing Easter Feast that generally started with a sweet or dessert such as Simnel cakes (fruit cake with two layers of almond paste).

We spoke to our home chef Manju and her husband, Philip to understand how Easter is celebrated today. They are a Christian family from Thrissur, one of the largest cities in Central Kerala.Like any other Christian family, they observe Lent for 40 days. On the day of Easter, they attend the Mass at their Church and get ready for the enormous feast that follows at home. They also make their own homemade wines. Dishes such as Chicken/Mutton Stew, Beef Varattiyathu (Beef Roast) with Appams (crepes made with fermented rice batter), Beef Cutlets, Vattayappam (sweet Rice Cakes) and Iddiyappam (String Hoppers) with Egg Roast are a must. They start and end their meal on a sweet note. Payassam being the family favourite to end the meal and a hot cup of coffee to seal the deal!

Home chef Manju's Chicken Stew with Appam. Check out her meals here

Home chef Manju and her husband Philip, regularly host meals with and share the distinct and unique flavours of Central Kerala with one and all. They have put together a mouth-watering Easter spread for 31st March and invite all to be a part of their traditional celebrations.

Curious to know the more? Check it out here.

A little sneak peek into their meal, home chef Manju shares her recipe for Coconut Pudding:

INGREDIENTS:
1 tin (400 gms) Condensed Milk
5 tsp Sugar
10 grams China Grass (Agar Agar)
2 tins Milk (measure using the condensed milk tin)
1 tin Tender Coconut Water
¾ cup Tender Coconut Flesh
A few glazed Cherries for garnish (optional)

METHOD:
1. Heat the tender coconut water in a pan until just hot (do not boil!) and add the china grass to it.

2. Mix together - milk, condensed milk, and sugar.

3. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, and set aside.

4. Give the coconut pieces a quick spin in your mixer or blender.

5. Add to the china grass mixture and mix thoroughly.

6. Mix together with the milk mixture and stir well.

7. Pour into a large tray or individual serving cups.

8. Chill overnight or at least for 6 hours before serving.

9. Garnish with cherries, if using any.


Happy Easter!


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