Mom has made Easter bread (called cuculi in our Italian dialect) for Easter every year. She hasn't made it for a few years now. There is much work and time involved and it's too much for Mom these days. One of my sisters has tried her hand at it for a few years too. In the last two years of covid, I have continued this tradition with my son's help. My family loves them. It's a plain, slightly sweet, bread. My husband says we've come close and they are good but that mom’s remain the best. Mom chuckles at that remark. She is delighted that my son and I make them and she says they are well done.
Easter bread is very symbolic as are the shapes or forms in which they can be created. Mom recalls that her mom taught her that it is holy to make bread especially for Easter. Mom would start to make it the evening of Holy Thursday. The dough needs to sit and rise twice. She would actually get up during the night to push the dough back down to rise a second time. Then, it is shaped into a wreath or a braid or simply as a round bread. Hard boiled eggs are placed into the shapes. Mom would make a cross with two strips of dough and put it on top of each egg. On the wreath shaped bread we place 3-4 eggs and on the braid, one. From here, they need to rise a third time. Finally, they are baked. Mom usually prepared one each for her children's family and a few extras.
Clearly, bread and the host, the Eucharist, remind us of Jesus. The Eucharist is Jesus, the bread of life. The rising needed before shaping and baking the bread brings to mind the resurrection of Christ. Bread is physical nourishment for our bodies just as the Eucharist is spiritual nourishment for our souls. The eggs that are used remind us of new life, Spring. The cross on top of the egg reminds us of both Jesus' crucifixion and our salvation. The wreath could symbolize the crown of thorns but a wreath is symbolic of eternal life which Jesus has made possible for us. Still, it could also symbolize a king's crown, Jesus our king who saved us from sin.
Making Easter bread is a refreshing tradition. It takes me back to when I was growing up and Mom would make it. It gets me thinking of Easter, Spring and new life, both here and now as well as in God's kingdom. When I think of this Easter tradition, I feel nostalgic, comforted and hopeful that, though we will die, we will rise again to a new glorious life beyond our comprehension because of Jesus. It also reminds me that life is full of ups and downs, not every day is the same. Change is constant. We can always start anew. We can always return to God through Jesus. Thank you, Jesus, for your love, mercy, grace, blessings and the hope of eternal life.