Italian Easter Bread

Joanna Estrada is a special needs teacher living in Los Angeles, California. She is 60 years old and has three daughters. Joanna has lived in Southern California since birth, moving from Redondo Beach to Torrance in her mid-twenties. Her father was Irish and her mother was Italian; as such, she grew up surrounded by multiple cultures and was brought up in the Catholic tradition. In the excerpt below, Joanna describes an Italian Easter tradition, wherein her Italian grandmother would bake special bread adorned with hardboiled eggs:

Joanna: “My grandmother would bake a woven, like a braided loaf of bread for Easter. She would divide the dough into three separate pieces and braid them together to make a wreath. Then she would bake it… And in the center and all around it, she would put hardboiled eggs that she colored with dye. She would soak them in dye to make them fun looking before she put placed them into the baked dough.

Isabella: “Was the bread symbolic in any way?”

Joanna: “The dough represented life and rebirth and things like that… it was for Easter, so the bread symbolized the beginning of life…”

Isabella: “What would you do with the bread? Was it an offering or sorts or did your family eat it?”

Joanna: “No, we definitely ate it. I really liked it because it had sort of a sweet taste to it. All this would happen in one day—she would bake the bread in the morning and we would eat it in the evening.”

Here, Joanna describes a ritual that her grandmother performed on Easter Sundays. For practitioners of Christianity and Catholicism, Easter is an important holiday. It marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ and has given birth to a number of commemorative traditions. The tradition Joanna describes above is at once a folkloric recipe and ritual. The bread itself serves as a sort of celebratory symbol, and the act of baking it may be considered a ritual. Joanna associates the woven bread with Easter and no other holidays; to the members of her family, Easter Sunday and the woven bread were irrevocably fused.