Throughout Portugal, Easter is a family orientated holiday for both religious and non-religious families, where a truly gastronomic celebration of life and friendship takes place on the Sunday.
In western Christian societies, such as Portugal, Easter marks the end of a period of fasting and penitence, which started on Ash Wednesday, making it a real occasion for feasting.
The significance of eating lamb, bread, wine, almonds and eggs has now been lost to many, but the tradition is still upheld, for these were the rich foods in Hebrew culture.
In traditional religious households across Portugal, families go to church on the Sunday morning, before the priest visits parishioners’ homes to bless them.
Once home, a veritable feast is laid on the table for the whole family to eat together.
Traditional foods eaten throughout the Easter celebrations include a sweet or savoury bread called Folar, which is very popular in the Algarve. The bread is made from a simple dough, often containing eggs, flour, milk, yeast, sugar and olive oil and is usually topped with two hard boiled eggs, each covered in a cross made of dough. The tradition of the Folar is steeped in history and religious symbolism, representing the ritual of sharing, solidarity and family ties.
Other sweets that are likely to adorn an Easter table in the region include marzipan sweets and cakes made from figs, oranges, almonds, carob or pumpkin as well as sweet rice pudding.
Lamb or goat is the traditional meat to be served either roasted or stewed for the main course. This is often accompanied by fresh boiled vegetables, new potatoes with thyme as well as white beans and even boiled fennel with olive oil.