The Surprising History of Easter Food.

Here at Just Catering we have been preparing for a plethora of Easter celebrations. We get very excited when our clients request seasonally themed treats as part of their order from hot cross buns to lamb kebabs! We normally associate Christmas with feasting and indulgence, but Easter has many associations with food, some of which are more ancient than people realise and might surprise you. 

Hot Cross Buns

Unbelievably, hot cross buns were not created by Christians to celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection on the cross. Well before the introduction of Christianity to Britain, Pagans would bake sweet bread with crosses marked on the top to represent the four quarter of the moon and the food seasons. They would offer them to the Eostre, the goddess of Spring in order to welcome in the season of new birth and fertility. 

When the ancient Christian Church was developing its calendar of festivals, it chose to place Easter, it’s own celebration of rebirth around the Spring equinox, effectively absorbing the Pagan festival. Cleverly, the clergy didn’t fight the women who wanted to carry on making the crossed cakes; instead them made the crosses more distinctive and added it to their ritual.

The association was made even stronger during the reign of Elizabeth I. The London Clerk of Markets issued a decree that outlawed the sale of spiced buns. The only festival days exempt were Christmas or Good Friday and the only occasions where they were allowed were funerals. The hot cross bun has now been representative of Christ’s death on the cross ever since.

For you amateur bakers out there, we will posting a recipe next week on our Facebook page for you to try out. Check out our page and have ago for your own Easter celebrations. 

Simnel Cake

During the Medieval Period, people were allowed to break their Lent fast (the 40 day period that led up to the celebration of Easter) on a Sunday. Simenon cake would be baked for the middle Sunday of Lent to mark the halfway point of the fast. 11 or 12 marzipan balls would be used to decorate the top. These represented the eleven disciples of Jesus (minus Judus, the man who betrayed him to the aroma s to be executed). Sometimes a twelfth ball was added to represent Jesus. 

Mothering Sunday, the day when those would worked away from their home village returned home to visit their home “mother” church often fell on this day and so the Simnel cake became the cake a lot of children would make to bring home to their mothers on that day. 

A Lamb Roast

The long weeks of Lent would finish with a large indulgent dinner on Easter Sunday. For those who could afford it, lamb would be roasted. Lamb has so many associations with Easter it’s difficult to know where to start! For pagans the birth of lambs would be evidence that Eostre was being generous and merciful. 

The Jewish Passover was celebrated around this time. The ancient Jews would slaughter a perfect lamb, daub its blood over their door frames and eat it quickly with unleavened bread. This was the meal they had eaten the night before their exodus of Egypt when God rescued them from their slave masters. God delivered judgement on all those households without the lambs’ blood, “passing over” the households who had obeyed him. 

For Christians, Jesus represents the “lamb of God”, whose blood was slain to protect his followers. They believed the Passover foreshadowed Jesus’ death on the cross and roasted lamb at Easter to remember this. The Last Supper, the meal that Jesus celebrated with his disciple the night before he was betrayed and crucified, was taken during the festival of Passover which they had travelled to Jerusalem to celebrate. 

However you celebrate Easter this year, remember that it is a time of feasting, celebrating and family. We at Just Catering wish you a very blessed and happy Easter. For a traditional Easter themed catered meal, just ask us at Just Catering. 


Chapman, E & Schreiber, S (2018) “The history behind your favourite Easter traditions.” Good Accessed 21.3.19 “Easter 2019” Accessed 21.3.19

McDoughal, H (2010) “The Pagan Roots of Easter” Accessed 21.3.19

Wikipedia. “Simnel Cake” Accessed 21.3.19

Ysewijn, R (2013) “Hot cross buns through Paganism, Christianity and Superstition” Accessed 21.3.19