This year, Greek Orthodox Easter (Eastern) and Catholic/Protestant Easter (Western) are celebrated on the same day, April 24. More times than not, the dates for Eastern and Western Easter don’t coincide. In fact, 2014 is the next time Eastern and Western Easter will fall on the same day. So why are the dates different? Great question!
The simplest explanation is this; Eastern Easter is based on the Julian calendar, while the Western Easter is based on the Gregorian calendar, which is why the dates usually differ.
We all know that Easter basically celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. How does that tie in with the folklore of the Easter bunny? Eggs and rabbits were symbolic of fertility in many ancient cultures. Eggs and rabbits were also symbolic of renewal, rebirth, or life after death. Therefore, according to folklore, it makes sense to connect the egg and rabbit as symbols of renewal (the coming of Spring), rebirth (fertility and new beginnings), and life after death (the resurrection of Jesus).
Let’s turn our attention to foods connected with this holiday and how this blog will eventually come full circle. Since I’ve been talking about Easter and eggs, I want to share with you my father’s (a Greek Orthodox) famous (at least, at my house) Easter bread, traditionally called Tsoureki.
We made this Easter Bread a few days before Greek Easter every year. Once the bread was made, it was safe to assume that there was absolutely no way it would last until Easter day and, of course, no one in the family would ever admit to stealing the first slice. It got to the point where my dad was forced to make two loaves of bread every year. One to satisfy the vultures (us) and one for whomever we were celebrating the holiday with.
My dad modified the recipe and the shape of the bread a bit, but basically, it’s the same recipe my grandmother made when he was a kid.
Here’s the recipe:
Costa’s Greek Easter Bread Twist (Tsoureki)
3-4 cups flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs, beaten (for dough)
2/3 stick melted sweet butter
1/4 cup warm honey
1/2 cup warm water
1 pkge yeast
1 egg, beaten (for glaze)
5 colored hard boiled eggs
Sesame seeds or sprinkles (whichever you prefer)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, sift 3 cups of flour and combine with sugar and salt. Set aside.
Dissolve yeast in warm water. Mix in honey. Set aside.
Blend 2 eggs, vanilla, butter, honey/yeast/water mixture.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Slowly add wet ingredients, mixing well until blended.
Continue to blend until mixture becomes a dough.
Knead on lightly floured surface for 15 minutes or until smooth. Add additional cup of flour a bit at a time until dough is no longer sticky. You may need a little more or a little less, depending on the dough.
Place dough in bowl, covered with a towel and let stand for 1 hour. After 1 hour, punch dough down, and let rise once more in covered bowl for 1 hour.
Punch dough down and separate into two equal portions.
Roll each portion into a long rope, about 1-1/2 inches thick.
Press the ends of ropes together and begin creating a loose braid with floured hands until you reach the end.
Fasten opposite end. Form into circle and secure by squeezing ends of dough together.
From underneath, insert colored eggs (try to space as evenly as possible).
Place on oiled baking sheet and cover, let rise until dough doubles, about 40 minutes.
Glaze with last beaten egg. Add sesame seeds or sprinkles on top.
Place in oven for 40 minutes or until golden brown.
Let cool and take a taste. You’ll find this bread to be addictive!
And, just to set the record straight, rabbits don’t lay eggs, only the Easter bunny does.
The Big Tine.