Trying to find reason in religious festivals is often a difficult task. Why do we celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas when we only celebrated his mother getting pregnant at the start of the month and it is nowhere near the day he was born? Why do we hunt through gardens for chocolate eggs to celebrate his resurrection? While there are reasons for many of these things, they still don’t make a lot of sense. Yet tradition is tradition. One tradition that is very common, is to celebrate Easter by eating pork.
This may not strike you as odd but when you consider that Easter is a holiday that celebrates the death and resurrection of Jesus who was a jew. It seems a little bit rude to eat the one meat that he was not allowed to eat (according to his religion). Many people have said that pork was chosen because Christians are allowed to eat it and as the festival is a Christian festival, pork makes it all feel a bit more Christian. That is a nice story and perhaps a convenient explanation but if you dig a little deeper you will find the reason is far simpler.
We eat pork during Easter because it is in season. I know what you are thinking, a pig is not a fruit or a vegetable and last time you checked animals didn’t have seasons. Well they do. Of course in the modern age it is impossible to tell and getting even harder to tell when some vegetables are out of season (although the crazy prices sometimes give it away). Yet it is true.
Three key factors that impact the seasonality of animals are their diets (and what food was available to them), their growth cycle (what time of year they mature e.g. spring brings new lambs etc) and the weather. If you go back far enough you will find a time when butchers did not have refrigerators so they would butcher meat when it was colder and would last longer. Since large pigs took a long time to butcher and prepare it made sense to do this at a colder time of year.
Pigs were therefore butchered in autumn and stored over winter in the colder environment. Another factor was that around autumn time of year, pigs are on a diet of apples and acorns. It is said that this improved the flavor of a pig a huge amount. This combined with the weather meant that Easter was an ideal time to butcher pig. The fact that a festival fell around that time was a nice coincidence and meant that a delicious feast could be prepared.
There you have it. We don’t eat ham during Easter for any religious reasons, we eat it purely because we like the taste of roast bacon with a little touch of acorn.