Being both countries of immigrants, The United States and Brazil have various Easter traditions that were blended together by the different nations that built the country over the years – for instance, Brazilians usually have codfish on Good Friday because Catholic tradition mandates that followers abstain from meats that bleed on that day.
Here in America, for example, many celebrate Easter Sunday by serving ham or roast lamb – the latter having come directly from the Jews’ Passover meal (lamb with bitter herbs and unleavened bread) that somehow crossed over and adapted to Christian tables. Brazilians absorbed many Western European customs that came with the immigrants – from Italy they got the “Colomba Pascal,” a pigeon-shaped citrus fruit cake that is enjoyed around the country (but mostly in Sao Paulo) and stewed lamb, which symbolizes the slaughter of the sacrificial lamb.
In the northeastern city of Fortaleza there is the tradition of the coconut bread, which is only sold during Easter weekend and that is given to friends and family alongside wine and chocolate on Easter Sunday. I am not sure where this came from, but is a unique characteristic of the state of Ceara, where my Brazilian family originates from.
Whichever traditions my two countries might have, I can surely say that nothing compares to the great effort put in by Polish people – something I have been able to experience firsthand since I met Renata. Both there and in the immigrant communities here in the U.S., Poles prepare a large breakfast that consist of boiled eggs, sweet bread (babka), smoked sausages (kielbasa), vegetables and a variety of other dishes.
Most important is the preparation of the Swieconka, or “Easter Basket,” which is taken to Church on Saturday for a special blessing. There is a Polish church in our neighborhood on Staten Island, so I help Renata to prepare the basket and take it for the ritual blessing. There I have seen displays of the most varied kind, and in some baskets I have even spotted small bottles of wine and vodka. After all, this is a time for celebration.
Brazilian-Style Good Friday codfish
- 1 lb. Salted codfish
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 1 green bell pepper, sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced
- 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
- Sliced tomatoes and galic to taste
- 100g chopped green olives
- 1 cup olive oil
- ½ lb. Cooked potatoes (boiled until al dente), sliced
- Remove the salt from the codfish by soaking it in fresh water at least 24 hours before preparation. Change the water frequently.
- Boil the codfish for 30 minutes. Drain and make sure there are no bones.
- In a large baking dish, layer the tomato slices and top with cooked codfish
- Top with chopped garlic, half the olives and the potato slices
- Add the onion and pepper slices and the remaining olives.
- Top it all with the olive oil, cover with aluminum foil and bake for about 30 minutes at 300 F. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes and serve with a side of green salad.