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3 Delicious Bahamian Easter Traditions

a plate of food on a table

There is no denying that spring has arrived here in The Bahamas! We’re starting to feel fewer of those enjoyable (but only visiting) winter breezes, colorful flowers are bursting into full bloom and the days are sharing their sunlight with us for longer and longer. And with this season also comes the annual Easter Holidays in our islands- which means, among other things, many special (and delicious) food celebrations unique to this time of year.

For many Bahamians, Easter Holiday is marked by a coupling of both religious celebrations and culinary traditions. With 95% of the Bahamian population claiming a Christian faith, you’ll find that long-standing holiday rituals are deeply rooted in the majority of local households and include: observing Lent, attending church services on Easter Sunday and celebrating a feast-like Easter Meal amid family and friends. Of course, the weekend is usually filled with lots of other related fun festivities such as Easter Egg Hunts for the young ones (and those young at heart) and full days of laughing, swimming, and (in many cases) enjoying libations on one of our myriad beautiful beaches.

So, in the spirit of this upcoming Bahamian Holiday, we thought we’d share with you some of our favorite Easter Food Traditions apart from the colorful baskets full of chocolate bunnies (which we do adore, by the way). Whether you’ll be spending Easter in the islands as a welcomed visitor this year or are simply a local gearing up for the usual special celebrations, we hope you’ll be able to experience and/or indulge in some of our “must-eat” suggestions below. And with the customary four-day long weekend, including Good Friday and Easter Monday, the occasion certainly offers plenty of opportunity for partaking!

Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday

hot cross buns
Credit: Foodness Gracious

Hot cross buns are a festive food that deserve all the spotlight they typically receive on this joyous and reverent holiday in The Bahamas. In fact, we get excited just writing about them! With rich and golden dough that is packed with spice and the gooey sweetness of raisins, they offer more flavor & pizzaz than your everyday bread rolls. Interestingly enough, these buns originate from ancient English traditions of Easter that have been passed down by British colonists to our islands since the late 1600s. We invite you to join our Bites of Nassau Food Tasting & Cultural Walking Tour for more details on British influences on Bahamian history if you’re curious!

The spiced dough, usually of cinnamon but also commonly cloves or allspice, is a distinguishing feature of these buns in addition to the design of “The Mark of The Cross” which is fashioned by powdered sugar icing in remembrance of The Crucifixion for those followers of the Christian faith. What’s more, similar practices of baking hot cross buns can still be found throughout Great Britain as well as the formerly-British colonized country of Australia with little to no variation of our Bahamian version! Typically enjoyed on Good Friday, the Friday before Easter, hot cross buns can be found in most local bakeries throughout the islands in the week leading up to the long weekend. They can even be spotted in standard grocery stores, sold by the dozen. They do tend to disappear in most households quickly, though! Be sure to snag yours before it’s too late.

We’ll be 100% honest and admit to usually consuming more than just a couple of these fruity & sweet buns during the long weekend. With their appropriateness for breakfast, snack time or dessert – can you really blame us?

If you want to attempt creating a batch of your own this year from scratch, check out a recipe here.

 Fried Bahamian Snapper On Good Friday

fried snapper

Credit: DP Review

The culinary tradition of eating fish during the Easter holiday is based on the long-standing custom within the Christian Faith of abstaining from meat during the Lenten Season as well as Good Friday, the recognized day to commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Although this practice originated in the Catholic Church, these days you’ll find devout Christian families of any denomination as well as non religious Bahamians cooking up a flavorful and savory fish-based meal in the late morning or early afternoon on Good Friday.

While fish of any sort and cooked any style is fair game for this meal (you’ll find dishes featuring: grouper, wahoo, and yellowtail jacks just to name a few), Good Friday is primarily an occasion for fried fish. Crispy whole snapper or jacks deep fried after being liberally pre-seasoned with lime, salt and pepper are most common, but you’ll also encounter fish breaded in a flour-based batter or even simply pan-fried. If you’re aiming to watch your waistline or seek alternative renditions of the dish, you can try either ‘boil’ (boiled) fish that is boiled in a large pot with onions, celery, and potatoes, or ‘stew’ (stewed) fish that is smothered in a thick brown, tomato-based sauce instead.

On the days leading up to Good Friday, don’t be surprised if you find crowds of locals lining up at local fishing docks or fish markets such as Potter’s Cay or Montagu Fish Market. They will be busy procuring their fish for the upcoming holiday, of course!

If you’re wondering where you can enjoy a plate of fish on Good Friday, you won’t be disappointed at the many authentically Bahamian restaurants at Arawak Cay (aka Da Fish Fry)Compass Point Beach Resort on the western side of the island, or the legendary seafood specialists at the Poop Deck on the eastern side. As an added bonus, both locales will offer some amazing views of the harbour in addition to fresh fish for this holiday meal.

Eager to put your chef’s hat on for this one? Here are a few recipe links for Bahamian boil’steam’, and fried fish that you can try at home.

Pineapple Glazed Ham On Easter Sunday

glazed ham
Credit: Epicurious

For practicing Christians in The Bahamas, the resurrection of Jesus Christ corresponding with the end of the Lenten Season on Easter Sunday make for a joyous and bountiful meal for all. As meat had originally been restricted for members of the Catholic Church during the Lenten Season, the main dish of “Easter Ham” on this day signifies the glorious return of meat to the menu. On our Bahamian islands, a big, juicy ham is cooked up to star alongside all the dressings of down-home local favorites including: peas and ricebaked macaroni and cheese, potato salad, plantains, coleslaw – as well as chicken and/or turkey and either conch or seafood for good measure.

Our recommendation: bring your appetite for this feast!

Looking for a place to dine for your own Easter Sunday chow down? We recommend checking out lavish-style Bahamian buffet options at the British Colonial Hilton’s “Aqua” restaurant in downtown Nassau or Luciano’s of Chicago on Nassau’s Harbourfront, decked out with gorgeous marina views that allow you to soak up the tropical ambiance while you dine.

As an un-food-related aside, the celebration of Easter in The Bahamas also signals the start of beach season for locals (now that the water temperature has warmed up again. As both Good Friday and Easter Monday are nationally recognized holidays in The Bahamas, many locals flock to nearby beaches with friends and family during this time of revelry and relaxation – perhaps with Easter leftovers in tow!