There are countless traditions that we partake in that we simply don’t question. Eating a coma-inducing turkey for Thanksgiving is just what most of us do. Decorating a tree for Christmas is an annual ritual for many families, regardless of religious views. Going on an Easter egg hunt and trying to .....
In the United States, in particular, eating ham on Easter is another of many customs that most of us would respond with a blank stare if asked about its origins.
Easter, a religious day commemorating the resurrection of Jesus, is an important day for many families. For some, weeks of Lent and midnight mass precede the holiday. So what does ham have to do with the celebration of a religious figure?
Not much, actually. In fact, most European and Jewish traditions call for the consumption of lamb on Easter. However, in North America, where lamb has never claimed first place in terms of consumption, the sweet taste of swine reigns supreme. As a result, carving into a ham on Easter became a custom the same way many customs originate—from what was readily available and convenient at the time.
Back in the day, animals were slaughtered in the Fall in anticipation of winter. Leftover produce was then cured in time to be eaten in the Spring—the same season that Easter falls in. As such, ham became the meat of choice for Easter celebrations because, simply, it was there.
Now, we can find a leg of ham at basically any grocery store. We can order it online or pick it up from a ham specialty store, such as national staple HoneyBaked Ham Company. Harry J. Hoenselaar founded the company more than 50 years ago. He was also the one who invented and patented the first machine that sliced perfect spirals of ham that made serving the meat so much easier at family gatherings. The 400-unit franchise can now be found all across the country. Today, three generations later, the family still runs the business.
Despite its general lack in significance in regard to its Easter consumption origins, it is undeniable that feasting on a freshly baked ham on Easter is as comforting as a soft, warm bed after a hard day’s work. Without it, Easter would feel like a bagel without cream cheese—incomplete.