Have you ever wondered, whilst you’re unwrapping your second Easter egg of the morning (!), why we have Easter eggs? Where the tradition came from and how an oversized bunny got in on the act? We’re here to give you a potted history of the Easter egg and all the traditions that come with it.
Have you ever thought about why Easter eggs are egg shaped? Well, it’s because eggs are traditionally forbidden during lent. Nowadays, it tends to be chocolate, sweets, or alcohol that we give up for lent, but it used to be all animal products.
Because eggs weren’t eaten over the 40 day period, any eggs that were laid were saved and decorated to make them Holy Week eggs that were then given to children as gifts.
Why are Easter eggs made of chocolate?
The first chocolate Easter eggs were made in France and Germany in the 19th century, but because mass chocolate production was still in its infancy, they were often bitter and hard – and not like the sweet and moreish Easter eggs we have today.
As chocolate-making techniques improved, hollow eggs were developed – and our love of chocolate has only increased. And whilst in the UK we don’t consume as much chocolate as the Swiss, we’re not far behind, with us Brits consuming around 16.3 lbs of chocolate per year – although this is sure to have increased during lockdown!
Where does the Easter bunny come in?
It may sound odd that Easter bunnies are just as synonymous with Easter as eggs, but the Easter bunny has been around for nearly as long as the chocolate Easter egg. Easter bunnies started becoming associated with Easter in the 19th century, and it’s because rabbits usually give birth around Easter – and thus became a symbol for new life, which is of course what the message of Easter is all about.
Although, there’s a much older Anglo-Saxon legend that tells how the Saxon goddess Eostre found a wounded bird and transformed it into a hare so that it could survive the winter. The hare found it could lay eggs, so it decorated these eggs each spring and left them hidden as offering to the goddess – hence why Easter egg hunts are always popular. Although in Switzerland, Easter eggs are delivered by a cuckoo and in some parts of Germany it’s a wily Easter fox who brings the eggs.
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