We were recently having a meal of delicious lamb with our youth pastors and one of the pastors mentioned that their favourite meal was an Easter Roast lamb. Another pastor was unfamiliar with the tradition and although initially confused we began to discuss the origins of this pastime.

When planning a classic Easter supper, no table setting is complete without some sort of meat. Roasts, glazed hams, and lamb have been on our tables for years and have become delicacies we associate with Easter. Have you ever wondered why these dishes play such an important role in the festivities? We devised a traditional Easter dinner in part to commemorate Lent and the necessity to abstain from certain foods. Lamb, the earliest Easter meat dish, dates back to pre-Christian times and provided the groundwork for our future meals. The first roast lamb was had during the first Passover Seder, with spice combinations and tastes varied depending on where you have this meal.

Enjoying Lamb

There is nothing within the Bible that prohibits the consumption of lamb and even so it is highly promoted for it’s symbolic relationship with Christ. Lamb is also an Australian tradition here and is treated as a special meal that is both accessible and premium. Recently we discovered of a company that is specifically involved with the lamb production industry and supports the creation of lamb meats for all of Australia to consume.

Lamb Within Religion

Lamb made its way into the traditional Passover meal according to a biblical account recorded in the book of Exodus, in which Jews in Ancient Egypt were required to smear lamb’s blood on their doorposts in order to escape a plague from God (via History). When early Jews converted to Christianity and ate lamb to commemorate Passover, they brought this feast with them to celebrate Easter. The identification of Jesus as “the lamb of God” may also have contributed to the intake of this meat associated with Easter. Furthermore, the availability of lamb as meat after the winter months when there are no cattle to butcher would inspire our forefathers to serve up a few lamb legs to celebrate.

A Classic Easter Roast with a Lengthy History

Depending on who you ask, the importance of serving lamb as a gesture to early Jewish religious observances varies. According to Food & Wine, Ashkenazi Jews traditionally did not eat lamb at Passover because they consider it as eating a sacrifice for God. Instead of breaking the law, this religious group may rejoice with brisket instead of lamb. Sephardic Jews, who lived further west, on the other hand, are permitted to eat lamb on Passover because they consider the holiday as a reenactment of the original Passover. However, while this group may have lamb during the celebration, they are not permitted to roast a whole lamb due to religious restrictions.

Because of its historical relationship with the biblical tale of Passover, this meat has persisted as a time-tested menu dish for Easter for millennia. The next time you delve into a leg of lamb for Easter dinner, you’ll have an extra dish of enjoyment knowing the complete tale of why this meat is served on Easter across the world.