Easter is our favourite time of year – a long weekend to pause and contemplate the road ahead. With the four-day weekend approaching, here are some of our favourite ways and items to brighten up your Easter. Treat yourself to something stylish to wear over Easter lunch, or send a treat to family and friends as a little gift in the absence of spending the holiday together.
It’s a time to be together, but without the urgency and freneticism that Christmas brings.
On the eve of the Easter holiday, we always feel as if the tempo takes a welcome shift down a gear or two. The year is just a quarter over. Already there is an intense weariness in the air. This year, like the last, you can add to that a liberal dose of trepidation. In these times, anxiety is high. Read more, ‘The Return To Dinner Parties: A Sensible, Low-Stress Guide.’
If you’re a religious person commemorating it is, perhaps, a good time to pray for those most affected. If your approach is more secular, it’s an opportune moment to be mindful, to check your privilege and perform an act of charity that might make a difference to some lives. Easter arrives at a time of gentle seasonal transition when we seem in more of a mood to contemplate rather than outwardly, ostentatiously celebrate as it does around Christmas. Read more, ‘Tricks of the Trade: Throwing A Large Dinner Party.’
The contrast between this, our favourite, most languorous, time of year and the mad freneticism of the Christmas countdown, could not be more pronounced.
Just thinking about those mad pre-Christmas weeks raises the heartbeat. That hectic time of work deadline pressure before the country shuts for holidays. The endless urgent personal and communal catch-ups and let-downs and negotiations. The rampant consumerism with its pressure to bestow and receive unwanted gifts that only add to landfill. Setting the perfect table and negotiating from July whose turn it is to host and remembering who can’t be sat with who and planning every detail of a menu more fit for ravenous huskies (who bakes a ham any other day of the year or actually likes hot turkey with sweet pink jelly?) than sweating, exhausted, half-inebriated antipodeans. Read more, ‘Easter Is The New Christmas. How To Host A Holiday Party.’
Easter is a celebration of a new season and the possibility of new beginnings.
For those in the southern hemisphere, as the dark mornings lengthen and the birdsong begins ever later, as the light softens, this always feels like a time to pause and contemplate the road ahead. Read more, ‘Dinner Party Rules and Etiquette At A Party.’
The air is dry. It’s time to break out the jumper and to pull up the doona.
Guests may come and go with little expectation around Easter. It’s a time to be together, but perhaps without the urgency and formality that Christmas brings. Wrapped gifts aren’t needed although small thoughts are becoming popular gestures. Instead, maybe flowers or the last of the summer tomatoes from a friend’s garden, a book or cake.
Food is no-fuss and casual; slow cooking to match the contemplative emotional tenor and golden afternoons. Set the table with an appealing Easter centrepiece, although for some gatherings there’s no need to set the table. Sit where you like. Light the fire. Talk. And talk some more.
What to eat
After cooking three meals day after day for an entire year, no one feels like spending hours in the kitchen whipping up an Easter feast, but eating handfuls of chocolate eggs doesn’t feel quite right either. You have to create food and menus that are versatile and give you flexibility, which come together quickly, and are for those of us who are tired of cooking but still want to celebrate the day with a delicious meal. Read more, ‘Get The Party Started: How to be the Perfect Host.’
Go for easy ideas that can be slow-cooked the day before and simply reheated, assembled and enjoyed.
You can’t go past the delights of ham, lamb or pork roasts which traditionally take centre stage on the Easter table.
A classic holiday ham is a guaranteed showstopper, and don’t forget that you can always repurpose the leftovers. For lamb lovers, there’s classic roast leg of lamb or a lemon salsa verda version. If you’re in the mood for pork, porchetta roast pork is a surefire winner.
But we also love Ottolenghi’s food for its comforting, homemade appeal, which leans on quality ingredients and achievable techniques to make the recipes sing. They’re perfect for those not eating meat, for your Easter feast, with gorgeous potato tarts made with feta and herbs and store-bought puff pastry, which are a cinch to put together. Everyone loves cauliflower, so make a casserole with tomatoes and goats cheese, or a whole roasted cauliflower with romesco.
No one’s going to turn up their nose at a vegetable-laden lasagne, either.
No matter the holiday, it’s always about the sides.
From a simple potato au gratin to roasted brussel sprouts, glazed carrots, or buttery asparagus. Go seasonal with a couscous, cherry tomato and herb salad, fennel salad or olive oil-poached potatoes with spanish onion and rocket.
By Easter lunch, you may have already eaten a couple of chocolate bunnies but a feast isn’t complete without dessert.
A towering carrot cake, or a flourless chocolate cake filled with chocolate mousse. For lemon lovers, a lemon drizzle and poppyseed cake with buttercream icing, or rhubarb upside-down cake, even a honey and yoghurt cheesecake.
What to give
Easter has traditionally paled in comparison to Christmas, being mostly limited to chocolate and hot cross buns. Now the holiday has emerged as a popular time to exchange small gifts. As many consumers look for alternatives to sugary products such as chocolate, it is now normal to give children toys, clothing and money for Easter. Meanwhile, adult gifts are also growing in popularity, with chocolate and other food items in the lead, as well as beauty, alcohol and books, influenced largely by internet culture.
Apparently, there’s been a rise in sales of pyjamas, with a desire to dress children in matching pyjama sets for the egg hunt on Easter Sunday morning to make better photos for social media.
How to decorate
With pandemic lockdowns and restrictions having disrupted family get-togethers for the past two years, the appetite for Easter decor in 2022 is greater than ever. Items traditionally reserved for Christmas are being given a makeover – think wreaths and trees decorated with Easter eggs, and hanging lights. Read more, ‘How To Set A Stunning Table.’
Retail chain stores have always sold holiday-themed Easter things, but it seems like the range has almost tripled in the last two years, based on consumer desire.
After an uncertain few years, we’re looking ahead to brighter times and being able to celebrate the arrival of Autumn here in the Southern Hemisphere.
2022 is all about marking milestones and welcoming new hopeful chapters and it seems people are planning to go big this Easter. Easter styling and decorating is taking off globally and driven heavily by social media, particularly “snackable content” like TikTok and Instagram Reels.
Lifestyle magazines are groaning with glossy images of wreath-adorned front doors, Easter crackers and rabbit-emblazoned napkins. Retailers say sales and internet searches have soared for Easter-themed home decor compared to last year. The new trend for Easter decorations is booming and more homes are expected to be decorated for the long weekend this year than ever before. At John Lewis in the UK, sales of Easter trees are up 65 per cent compared to the same time last year, while Easter wreaths have sold out.
Customers are looking to create their biggest ever Easter celebrations this year and bring friends and family together.
People have spent so much time at home in recent years, they want to make their home environment as attractive as possible for a special occasion,’ said Catherine Nix, founder of UK-based MyScentedHome, which has seen a 1,000 per cent increase in demand for dried floral wreaths and bouquets since lockdown began.
People are thinking: why not celebrate the small things in life right now, especially at the moment with everything negative that’s going on around the world.
That’s not to say you have to run out and buy new Easter decor items and linens. We are great believers in using what you have and keeping it simple using freshly laundered napkins, with low centrepieces of foliage and seasonal fruit.
How to dress your Easter table
Tired of holiday clichés? Here’s how to create a table setting that will surprise and delight your guests.
Make It Personal
The holidays are a time to celebrate family, so the most meaningful decorations weave together the personal and the festive.
In a season where many of us spend most of our time keeping warm indoors, there is something so special about using pieces from the earth, by adding a garland of greenery or Autumn fruits down the centre of the table. Pomegranates and figs add the perfect punch of holiday red to a place setting, and nothing smells more beautiful than sprigs of evergreen scattered throughout the house. The combination of deep green and brown and gold is a perfect palette for holiday decorating. You get a lot of bang for your buck. We always consider what’s magical and what brings delight.
We take what’s around us — a branch, an apple, a herb — and make it into our tablescape. No, it’s not going to be perfect, it’s not machine-assembly-line made. That’s what brings lasting beauty and charm to your home.
Break Some Rules
Don’t use a formula when setting a table. You don’t want it to feel so perfect that people are afraid to mess it up. It should be loosely arranged for balance, but not perfectly symmetrical. Read more, ‘Entertaining For A Crowd.’
Glassware and silver should be arranged in the order they’re used, starting from the outside and working your way in.
Decorate With Food
We like to use purple eggplants, kale and bunches of root vegetables like radishes and beets to add texture, colour and interest to table settings. We are always inspired by the farmers’ markets. Play with colour blocks and asymmetry. You get a more powerful effect by working with colours in groupings, rather than mixing the shades. And combining flower stems of different lengths allows certain elements to stand out, adding depth to the arrangement. Flowers are so beautiful on their own. You don’t want them to be packed together.
Just because it’s Easter doesn’t mean that you’re required to put bunnies and easter eggs all over a colourful tablecloth. Placing a chocolate egg on each plate at a traditional table achieves style sans kitsch. Little vignettes or collections will spark conversation, especially when elements are not as literal such as adding miniature owls to an Easter table.
We like to incorporate tiny figurines and other unexpected elements that will surprise and delight guests.
Light the Candles
The easiest, least expensive way to add drama to Easter table is to light some candles. Everything and everyone looks amazing by firelight. For the most flattering light, aim for a mix of tapers and votives scattered the length of the table.
And don’t skimp on the candles. You can never have too many. For a warm, inviting glow, at least triple what you think you’ll need.
Outsourcing is key
Advance planning will ultimately make the Easter long weekend much easier to pull off if you are entertaining at home. Making accurate lists and giving yourself plenty of time for each task will minimize chaos.
You might find outsourcing is key for your busy life, but even if you can’t hire a catering staff, think about what you don’t have to do yourself — like picking up desserts, delicious salads, having wine, flowers or other supplies delivered, or hiring a cleaning service for before or after the weekend. Keeping it simple for yourself is crucial.
We’re not above just serving roast chicken with great wine. It’s the company that counts … and, of course, the table setting.
Two days before
Here, are your timeline tips for your Easter long weekend house parties. Pick up all the ingredients for the long weekend, so you can relax. Purchase wine and any other beverages you’ll be serving, and make sure you have a good corkscrew. Fill up your ice trays and pick up extra bags of ice from the store to load up champagne buckets.
Make a playlist (or several).
The day before
Prepare as much of the food as possible. Clean up your home, especially areas where guests will be (the dining room, living room and bathroom) and be sure the trash and the dishwasher are empty for the next day. Arrange foliage and fresh flowers around the house. Pick up cakes, pies, cheese, fresh breads, salmon – things people can graze on over the weekend.
The day of
Take it from pro chefs and prepare a mise en place, setting out all of the ingredients, sauces and garnishes you’ll need to finish your dishes around a kitchen bench area with a cutting board and good knives. Line up small bowls and fill them with everything you’ll need. Prepare any last dishes. Set up the table and any décor.
All linens, table settings, glasses and candles should be laid out at this point.
Two hours before
Arrange all the food you cooked previously on the benchtop and pull out any pots you’ll need to prepare them. Set up a drink and snack station for guests’ arrival with wine or an aperitif and something small to nibble on. Put pitchers or bottles of water on the table. Light candles and put on your first playlist. Have a glass of wine or take a moment for yourself so you’re relaxed when your guests arrive.
There is so much more to say but mostly, I think for us, as the world gears down into Easter… just have a happy time however you choose to spend it. Think. Pray. Listen. Act. And Live Well. MP X