How the world celebrates Easter

Hot cross buns and Easter eggs are synonymous with Easter - a significant religious festival for many and also an opportunity for reflection and spending time with friends and family.
As with most traditional social gatherings, food plays a large part – from family members preparing the Easter Sunday lunch to decorating Easter eggs and hiding them in the garden for the kids’ Easter egg hunt.

Global trends

This month we look at global food trends associated with Easter. Theories abound as to the origin of the humble hot cross bun – some say the ancient Greeks were the first to produce a cake marked with a cross; others note that a similar bun was distributed to the poor by monks in the 14th century.

Different versions of the bun (most delicious when toasted with lashings of butter) are found around the world – but in many Western countries, it is predominantly a spicy-sweet bun made with raisins or currants and marked with a cross on the top. It is traditionally eaten on Good Friday, but these days one can find them almost all year round in the supermarkets. In the Czech Republic, a similar cake or sweet bread – called “mazanec” – is enjoyed during Easter.

Eating pickled fish over the Easter weekend is a tradition unique to South Africans. The practice of eating pickled (curried) fish stems from various sources: one is that those observing Easter should not partake in any activities (including fishing or cooking) on Good Friday – so all meal preparation is done in the days leading up to the weekend. The fish was initially preserved by pickling (so that it would last until Easter Monday – especially in the days before fridges were in every household) but over the years the recipes have been tweaked to the delicious meal that it is today.

How the world celebrates EasterHow the world celebrates Easter

I'm sharing a pickled fish recipe which was passed down to me from my grandmother who lived most of her life in Elandsbaai and Paternoster on the West Coast. Try it!

Ouma Rienie’s pickled curry fish with a twist

We have created this recipe with a bit of a twist to the traditional curry fish as we use coconut and flour to dust the fish before frying. This gives the fish an amazing flavour... Ps: don’t tell ouma that we tampered with her recipe


5 medium size hake fillets
4 medium onions sliced
1 cup flour
2 teaspoon fish masala
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 teaspoon salt

2 cup of water
1½ cups vinegar
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon pepper corns
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons apricot jam
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons masala
4 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
5 cardamom seeds
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon garlic


  • For the brine mix all the ingredients together and slowly bring to the boil.
  • Add the medium sliced onions to the mixture but don’t cook them too long as you still want that crunchy taste.
  • Prepare and cut the hake fillets and make a mixture of the flour, coconut and masala and salt
  • Dust fish in mixture and fry until golden brown in oil.
  • In a plastic bucket or container layer the fish, curry brine and onions and repeat the layers.
  • Don’t store the fish in a metal container due to the high acidity. This can be kept in the fridge as it only starts to reach its optimum flavour after day number 3.

Janine with her grandparents
Janine with her grandparents

The Easter weekend begins on the Thursday before Good Friday for many in Germany – which is one of the possible origins of both the hot cross bun and Easter egg – and is called "Gründonnerstag" or "Green Thursday." The custom is to prepare green foods such as soups made with leeks, spinach, peas and parsley, eat loads of green veggies and serve herb sauces with the meal.

In Spain, the end of the 40 days of Lent and the start of the Easter weekend is celebrated with a sumptuous Spanish Easter cake called “La Mona de Pascua”. The original cake was a giant doughnut topped with boiled eggs. Bakers have upped the delicacy to total decadence and replaced the boiled eggs with chocolate ones, added a layer of apricot jam inside the cake, and decorated with chocolate glaze, almonds, chocolate eggs, colourful feathers and cartoon characters.

On the beverage front, some Danish breweries produce a special beer during the Easter period called Påskeøl (Easter beer), which is a lot stronger in taste than the country’s conventional beer.

For me, the Easter weekend has always been recognised as a holiday for religious reasons. It has also been a great way to get together with plenty of festivities and celebrating our religion and our family.

About Janine Fourie

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