02 April 2010

Good Friday and Gumbo Z'herbes

Many people over the world are in the midst of Holy Week. Holy Week has been celebrated in the Christian church since the 3rd century A.D. It is the last week of Lent and began on Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter and celebrates Jesus Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The next day celebrated is Maundy Thursday. This is the Thursday before Easter and commemorates The Last Supper of Jesus with the Apostles. That brings us to Good Friday. Good Friday (today) is the Friday before Easter and is the day Christians believe their Lord was crucified. Understandably, it is also known among some as Black Friday or Holy Friday. On Sunday, Christians will celebrate the Resurrection - the day they believe Jesus came forth from the grave alive.

Easter is not on a fixed day. The First Council of Nicaea (325A.D.) established the date of Easter as the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox. Ecclesiastically, the equinox is reckoned to be on 21 March (regardless of the astronomically correct date), and the full moon is not necessarily the astronomically correct date. The date of Easter therefore varies between 22 March and 25 April. This year we fall close to the middle of that range. Other holidays are calculated based on the date of Easter: Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday and the whole Lenten Season. Because Mardi Gras is based on Easter's date, that also affects the length of Carnival.

Here in north Alabama we are having beautiful weather. The sun is shining. Temperatures are in the 80s and spring flowers and flowering trees are abloom everywhere. I am very much reminded of the Easters of my childhood in Louisiana.

And speaking of Louisiana, the traditional food to eat on Good Friday is Gumbo Z'herbes. The name is a contraction of "gumbo aux herbes." It's made with greens, and it's very different from any other kind of gumbo. The more different greens, the better the gumbo z'herbes. Tradition holds that you must have an odd number of greens in there for luck, and that whatever the number is, that is the number of new friends you'll make in the coming year. When I was growing up, Catholics did not eat meat on any Friday at or during Lent. They could eat seafood then, and that is what was served every Friday and throughout Lent in our school cafeterias. But on Good Friday, no animal protein of any kind was allowed. Thus Gumbo Z'herbes. I do not have a written recipe for Gumbo Z'herbes, but I will explain it in another post.

As is the case with many celebrations, the way we commemorate Easter today is vastly different from the original celebrations. As the Christian religion spread, in order to absorb heathens and pagans into the church, the church adopted many customs from these peoples to get them to adapt. Spring celebrations of non-believers have now morphed into the coloured eggs, bunny rabbits, baby chicks and other symbols of spring that are common to us in the US.

So to all my friends who are celebrating this holiday, I wish you the happiest of Easters!

And I leave you with this song.

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Cathy said...

Happy Easter to you as well, Becky, and wishes for all the blessings of the season.

Southerncook said...

Happy Easter Becky and I loved your post. Always so informative. I would love to hear more about that Gumbo as I too have roots in New Orleans but this is the firt time I have ever heard of this gumbo. You need to share this recipe.