Bread of Easter Brightness

Anyone of Greek, Russian or Slavic descent will be familiar with some version of the colorful sweet bread the Greeks call Tsoureki.

The varieties are amazing, as a quick search of Flickr shows, but here is the story of a very special Easter bread.

Some years ago I flew to Dallas to see my sister received into the Church at the Easter Vigil. The lovely family that hosted us for dinner the next day served a bread very much like this.

Round shape with a single deep-red egg in the center --although with a tighter braid than the one pictured here (more snake-like). Our hostess additionally had studded the bread with five cloves around the perimeter.

It looked gorgeous as a centerpiece on their table.

After grace and several hymns, the lady of the house lifted the bread to explain its significance in hushed tones to us newcomers:

This is the round world. The braid is the coils of Leviathan, the Prince of this world, whose power has been broken by the five wounds of Christ
(here she indicated the cloves).

Then, with a swift and dramatic gesture, she used the back of a spoon to smash the egg --which was not hardboiled, but blown hollow-- and proclaimed joyfully,
See, the tomb is empty! He is risen indeed!
It would be difficult to exaggerate the impression that made on me. I think it's the most marvelous tradition: dramatic, joyful and playful all at once --and it really set the tone of the feast as one of rejoicing in the Resurrection.

I immediately co-opted the practice for my own. I particularly love it when we have new guests --and they jump when the empty tomb is smashed. I mention it now because Sunday is Palm Sunday and you'll have time to try it yourself if you care to.