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Why do we eat lamb at Easter?

Ever wondered why we eat lamb at Easter? It is almost impossible to think about Easter without thinking about all the foods and treats we love to eat during this celebration. The most important of these celebratory foods is Easter Sunday dinner. Sitting down for a delicious lamb dinner with our families has a history and tradition that dates back many years.

Marrissa Wilson
· 6 min read

Easter is a time when many of us come together with our families to enjoy some time in each other’s company. Outside of Christmas, it is one of the biggest celebrations of the year. If you’re a Christian, it’s a time to celebrate the life of Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice he made on the cross and his resurrection. One of the most prominent aspects of Easter celebrations is the food we enjoy.

On Good Friday, it is traditional to eat fish. The reason for this can seem surprising. Nowadays, meat is abundant, but in the past, meat from warm-blooded animals was a luxury. It is traditional to sacrifice this luxury on Good Friday to remember the sacrifice that Jesus made for the sins of Christians. We eat fish instead because the flesh comes from cold-blooded creatures. Fish is not seen as a representation of the flesh of Christ in the same way as the flesh from warm-blooded animals is. Of course, in addition to this, we have many other tasty treats that we eat around easter time. These include hot cross buns, simnel cake and, of course, Easter eggs.

While we eat all different foods and treats at Easter, the focal point is the traditional Easter Sunday meal. This is typically a roast dinner, and the traditional meat to serve is lamb.

Why is it a tradition to eat lamb at Easter?

It is easy to assume that we eat lamb at Easter because it happens to fall on or around lambing season. This isn't the case. The lamb you are eating at Easter would have been born around December and kept warm inside throughout winter.

If we don’t eat lamb because it’s in season, then why do we eat it? Well, the answer is twofold. Jesus is often referred to as the ‘lamb of God’ because John the Baptist referred to Jesus such in the Gospel of John. The eating of lamb not only represents the person we are commemorating but also the sacrifice he made.

The second reason we eat lamb at Easter is long-standing and a little more gruesome. Lamb has been the traditional meat to eat since the times of Christ, especially for celebrations. This is likely to be due to lamb being a traditional sacrificial creature since ancient times. There are mentions of lamb being used in sacrificial ceremonies by ancient Egyptians. The concept of sacrifice using lambs is even mentioned in the old testament.

Christians don’t practice sacrifice in this manner any longer. Still, we have built our current traditions upon the customs and traditions that predate modern history. As such, ancient symbolism is still very much a part of our traditional celebrations. Easter is one of those times, so we use lamb as our representation of the sacrifice Jesus made.

Easy Slow-Cooked Easter Lamb

You can make your life a little easier this Easter by slow cooking your Easter lamb using this recipe. This method of cooking is one you can prepare in advance. This allows you to spend the day with your family without slaving away in the kitchen until dinner time. The meat is so tender and soft it falls apart as you cook it, and you can use the sauce it cooks in as a gravy base.

Ingredients

  • A boneless leg of lamb. 
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons Plain Flour
  • Lamb Stock
  • 200ml red wine
  • 2 onions
  • 1 - 2 cloves of garlic. If you don’t like garlic, you can omit this and season with a pinch of salt instead.
  • Rosemary and thyme. Ideally, use whole dried sprigs, but you can season with a pinch of each from a chopped, dried herb if these are unavailable.

Equipment

  • A large non-stick frying pan
  • A slow cooker large enough for your joint of lamb
  • A hand whisk
  • A sharp paring knife

Method

  1. Pour the olive oil into a large non-stick frying pan and heat it up. Once the pan is hot, put the lamb into the pan and brown on each side for about 5 minutes. Put the lamb to one side for a moment while you prepare the slow cooker.
  2. Prepare your lamb stock by melting a lamb stock cube with 300ml of hot water. Set this to one side for a moment.
  3. Put the butter into the slow cooker. Turn the slow cooker on and set the temperature to a low setting and allow the butter to melt. 
  4. Once the butter has melted, it should start to foam slightly. When it is at this stage, stir the plain flour into the butter. 
  5. Grab your whisk and stir the lamb stock into the butter and flour gradually, a little at a time. Next, add the wine to the mixture and allow the resulting sauce to come to the boil.
  6. Cut the onion into slices and roughly chop the garlic. You don’t need to worry about chopping the garlic finely. You also need to grab about 4 sprigs of rosemary and 4 sprigs of thyme. Add all of these to the slow cooker.
  7. Lastly, put your lamb into the slow cooker and put the lid on.
  8. Cook the lamb in the slow cooker for about 8 hours. The resulting lamb should be a lump of deliciously tender meat that falls apart when you cut it. 
  9. Pair your meat with some boiled potatoes and your favourite seasonal vegetables. You can also strain the sauce to remove all lumps and pop it into a saucepan to simmer it to thicken it if needed to create a tasty gravy.

This is just one recipe you can use to cook a beautiful lamb dinner for your Easter celebrations. For more ideas, you can take a look at this recipe from the BBC for a delicious herb-crusted lamb leg. There are more ideas with this selection of lamb recipes from Great British Chefs.

Marrissa Wilson

Marrissa Wilson

Marrissa Wilson is a writer and knowledge enthusiast who loves to learn and discover new information about a variety of topics. Marrissa specialises in topics surrounding lifestyle and the home. Marrissa is lucky to have experienced working with a diverse range of people and businesses from tea makers to fabric designers and everything in between!