The Symbolic Reason Lamb Is Served On Easter

The start of the spring lambing season (which is the time when lambs are slaughtered between March and October) coincides almost perfectly with Easter, a Christian holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As the largest religion in the world, many food cultures have special Easter recipes featuring lamb, and sales of the meat tend to jump in the days leading up to the spring holiday. In Greece, for example, whole lamb is roasted on a spit to mark the end of the 40-day meat and dairy fast of the Great Lent of the Eastern Orthodox Church. However, beyond being excellent, flavorful meat that happens to be in season, there is a symbolic significance behind serving lamb at Easter meals.

If you're at all familiar with the Christian religion (or '90s heavy metal), you've likely heard the phrase "Lamb of God," which comes from the Bible. In John 1:29, John the Baptist proclaims: "Behold, The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" John is, of course, referring to Jesus Christ, with whom the lamb has become symbolically linked.

Lamb serves as a symbol of sacrifice on Easter

Lamb is a significant symbol that repeatedly appears throughout the books of the Bible, particularly The Old Testament, long before the arrival, crucifixion, and return of Jesus. In each appearance, from Abraham and Isaac to the painting of the lamb's blood over the doorway at the first Passover, the lamb symbolizes sacrifice and service toward God. Being of the Jewish faith, John the Baptist would certainly have understood the significance of his proclamation of Jesus as "The Lamb of God." It holds the weight of Jesus' eventual sacrifice for all sins. Lamb, like Christ, is also representative of purity, goodness, and salvation. 

Throughout history, as Christianity grew and expanded, sacrificing lambs (and really, all animals) fell out of favor. The tradition of eating lamb at Easter stemmed from acknowledging Jesus' sacrifice and ultimate triumph after rising from the dead.

You have plenty of options if you want to incorporate lamb into your Easter dinner, such as roasted lamb, braised lamb leg, lamb stew, and lamb cassoulet. Despite obvious holiday commercialization, lamb remains significant as this symbol of sacrifice, reminding many Christians why they celebrate Easter in the first place.