It’s Holy Week in the Christian calendar, so this week’s links are all about Easter. As a trivia, history, and liturgy “geek,” I think this stuff is interesting so I’m bound in my geekness to share it with you!
The days of Holy Week have their own names, beginning with Spy/Holy Wednesday, then Holy Thursday (sometimes Maundy Thursday), Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and of course Easter Sunday. Why Spy Wednesday? What the heck does Maundy mean? Well, “Spy Wednesday” because that’s the day Judas agreed to betray Jesus, and “Maundy” comes from the Latin phrase from that day’s Gospel.
“Maundy” is derived through Middle English and Old French mandé, from the Latin mandatum, the first word of the phrase “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos“ (“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you”), the statement by Jesus in the Gospel of John 13:34 by which Jesus explained to the Apostles the significance of his action of washing their feet.
In the Catholic Church, Thursday through Sunday is called the Easter Triduum. Which of course, means “Three Days” in Latin. See? That high school Latin is coming in handy!
The Eastern churches won’t be celebrating Easter on the same day as in the West. Why you ask? Well, it’s because they use the Julian Calendar and the Western churches use the Gregorian Calendar. Yes, that’s right: Julius Caesar and Pope Gregory XIII are still running things!
Ever wonder about the word, Easter? The actual proper name of the day is different between East and West. In the West, it’s called the Solemnity of the Resurrection of the Lord–”Solemnity” being the highest rank feastday. In the East, it’s called Pascha (English: Passover).
Besides the interesting historical and liturgical aspects (well, interesting to me anyway!), there’s other traditions, too.
Easter Bunnies? Easter Baskets? Colored eggs? The History Channel has a good rundown here. Wait, flying bells in France?
For Christians, Easter follows Lent–a period of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving–and so as you can expect there are many traditions that center around food. Germans have lamb, in France it’s, well, lamb and asparagus, in Mexico aquas frescas, in the UK is–ok, more lamb–AND hot cross buns. In the Pacific, the Chinese apparently often eat at a buffet. No, really. Here in Hawaii kalua pig is the standard Easter fare.
In my family, we have a tradition of making what we call “Easter Bread” to have for brunch on Easter Sunday. It’s a recipe that came from my mother’s family when they emigrated from Naples, Italy. The actual Italian name was probably “Torte di Pasqua” (Easter Pie), and contained various types of cured meats, cheeses, hard boiled eggs, and herbs. In Rome, a little north of Naples, it’s called pizza rustica.
My family’s recipe was clearly heavily Americanized, with pepperoni, bacon, ham, swiss cheese, provolone, hard boiled eggs, and parsley. It seems Great-Grandmother got to America and had to make do with what she could find here. I’ve done some research, and I think I’ve gotten a recipe that’s probably closer to the original. My Gramma was pretty tight-lipped about the recipe, but as mia famiglia dispersed around the country, I’m passing it on to you so we keep the tradition alive:
Easter Pie (makes one 12” pie, serves 6-8)
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (adjust as necessary)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp coarse black pepper
1/3 cup water (add more if needed to mix flour, but be careful!)
3 eggs well beaten
3 oz salami or other cured meats
5 oz ham
2 oz crumbled pancetta
2-3 hardboiled eggs (whole or chopped, whatever you like)
3 oz pecorino romano cheese
3 oz provolone cheese
1-3 oz mozzarella or other cheese as “filler” to stretch the filling as desired
Italian seasonings (we use basil, oregano, and parsley), about 2 tbsp
Combine ingredients for crust and work into a ball. Ball should be moist but not sticky. Separate the ball into two equal portions, one for the top and one for the bottom. Roll them very thin to the size and shape of a medium pizza (bigger is better). Place the bottom piece of dough on a baking stone/pizza pan sheet.
Chop ingredients for filling into small pieces, except for the hard boiled eggs.
Roll the dough balls into disks, and place one on your baking sheet. Round pizza sheets work best! Place the hard boiled eggs on the bottom of crust. Cutting them in half long-ways works best. Mound the filling up on the bottom dough, then cover the filling with the top piece.
Trim the excess dough, making two braids, four “pretzel” shapes with three loops each (about 1 1/2 inches across), and a crown of whatever design works. Serrate the edge of the pie, that represents the Crown of Thorns. Criss-cross the braids, those represent the whips with which Jesus was beaten.
Place the one “pretzel” in each quadrant made by the braids, each represents the Trinity (three loops). Place the crown on top, that’s Jesus’ crown as King of Kings.
Brush the whole pie with egg yolk, sprinkle liberally with sugar, and bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees, checking often to make sure it doesn’t burn on the edges. Cover the edges or crown with foil as needed. When cooked all the way through, let rest for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Enjoy warm or cold. Some like to dip it in marinara sauce as well. Buona Pasqua!
Mickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 28 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.
Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and writes for his own Leading Leaders blog, and GeneralLeadership.com.