Each year on Holy Saturday, we have a family tradition. The making of Italian Easter Bread. This mildy sweet breakfast bread with its creamy, sweet glaze and five colored eggs poking up is a symbol of the Risen Christ. For our family, for my parents before me, and for my grandparents before them, it was a sacred Holy Saturday tradition to prepare the bread for Easter morning. Much like Christ’s body was prepared for burial–only to rise on that first Easter morning long ago.
As I knead the sticky mixture of flour, eggs, yeast, and other ingredients with the heels of my hand, I can hear my mother’s voice say, “…add just a touch of flour…keep it warm by pressing in…there, now it’s smooth and elastic.” A ball of dough ready to rise in a warm place. Tucked in the oven above a steamy pan of water, the yeast will make that ball rise to brush the dish towels blanketing the bowl.
When my mother baked bread, the dough would percolate overnight in a bowl draped with a heavy covering. The bowl balanced on a chair above the floor furnace for warmth. Sometimes, the process began late on Good Friday. Sometimes, it started on Holy Saturday and finished early Easter morning when we awoke to the savoriness of freshly baked bread wafting through the house.
In our home, while the dough rises in our oven, I carefully remove five fresh eggs from the carton. Fragile as glass, they will be swirled gently in purple, green, hot pink, yellow, and orange colors from the Easter kit. Our sons used to help with this part but I think they’ll be busy this year. Handled with care, the eggs are then set to dry in the holes punched out of the coloring kit.
After the dough has risen once, it is removed from the oven and anise, raisins, and almonds are kneaded in to enhance the dough’s flavor. Rolled into two long ropes, the dough is braided. The brightly colored fragile eggs are tucked between the braided strands and the dough is ready to rise again.
At breakfast on Easter morning, my husband gingerly lifts the bread and with a knife carves a cross on the bottom of the loaf. Through this action, we are reminded that because of the cross of Good Friday we can participate in the Rising that changes our lives.
Traditions and love are the golden threads that tie one generation to the next. Baking bread, coloring eggs, gathering round the family table to give thanks, praying together. These intentional times shared and spent together speak meaning to our hearts and leaven the dough of life through the generations. Traditions add flavor to life.
What traditions make Easter meaningful for you?
“The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.'” Matthew 28:5-6a NIV
Have a Blessed Easter!
From My Heart to Yours,