As an unreligious person, I was rather confused the other day when I heard a very persuasive Fred Meyer ham commercial on the radio. I was only partially listening until there was mention of a “crispy brown sugar crust” after which was point, I was rapt, attentive to the description of tender, spiral-cut meat and all of the reasons why buying your ham from Fred Meyer was more convenient than running across town to the ham store. Long lines at the ham store? I wasn’t sure why there was a sudden mad rush for ham, but it seemed to make sense: ham is delicious.
It also occurred to me that Easter is this weekend, but that only partially explains the ham mania. Lamb is an Easter tradition that kind of goes along with the whole spring and rebirth thing (though you are eating a recently birthed, spring animal, so who knows). But what does ham have to do with Easter, spring or the resurrection of Jesus? Wasn’t Jesus Jewish and since when is ham Kosher? I’ve investigated the internet with the best of my intern abilities and here is a smattering of ideas that may shed light on the Easter ham tradition:
1. People like ham.
2. Curing ham takes quite a while. So ham that begins to cure when the pig was originally slaughtered (in the autumn months) is done around Easter time.
3. It has been historically convenient to eat pigs since they feed many people, multiple quickly, mature in one season and will pretty much eat anything. Plus they are prevalent in many parts of the Christian world, including at Fred Meyer.
4. Christians know how to compromise: in the midst of converting masses of people who already ate pig, they often felt it unnecessary to enforce the dietary restrictions in Leviticus in order to appeal to more people. These are, indeed, the strong Christian values upon which this country was founded.
5. It actually has nothing to do with Jesus and everything to do with Pagan rituals, which have devilishly infiltrated Christian tradition! Briefly: there was a pretty important guy descended from a false Pagan god who hunted pigs and then got killed by a pig while hunting them. In his honor, people didn’t eat meat during the time period known as Lent and then slaughtered a pig (to get back at all pigs) on the Sunday after the first full moon in the spring equinox. Pagan ham eaters, all of you!
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