Chocolate easter eggs are a relatively recent invention but have come to dominate Easter celebrations
Where do the chocolate Easter egg and Easter bunny traditions come from? (image: Adobe)
For those focused on the latter, you might well have already bought your Easter eggs – or Easter-themed dessert.
But why do we eat chocolate eggs at this time of year – and when did this tradition come about?
Here’s what you need to know.
Why are eggs a symbol of Easter?
When gobbling up your Easter egg, it’s unlikely you’ll be thinking about anything other than chocolate.
But there is an interesting reason for why the egg is associated with Easter.
Eggs – the animal ones at least – contain new life and can therefore be representative of rebirth.
So, they were initially given and received as gifts to mark the arrival of spring – a tradition which merged into Easter over time.
Eggs that chickens and other birds laid on Good Friday were said to turn into diamonds if you kept hold of them for 100 years – although this might have been down to a prankster who wanted to create a stink (both literally and metaphorically).
And if your egg had a double yolk, it was believed you would soon become rich.
Some people even thought there were fertility and other health benefits if you cooked your eggs on Good Friday and then ate them on Easter Sunday.
However, this slightly disgusting idea has never been scientifically proven.
When did the chocolate Easter egg tradition originate?
As with most seasonal chocolate products, Easter eggs have only become popular relatively recently.
But they do predate chocolate Advent calendars by around 100 years.
The first British chocolate egg was sold by Fry’s in 1873, with Cadbury’s launching its own version just two years later in 1875.
Easter eggs were initially made using dark chocolate, and were fairly plain in their early years.
However, in 1897 Cadbury’s launched its Dairy Milk Chocolate for the first time – a recipe that soon made it into Easter eggs and proved popular.
So popular, in fact, that milk chocolate has become the predominant flavor in modern Easter eggs.
That’s if you opt for a ‘traditional’ Easter egg, of course.
You can now buy all kinds of Easter chocolates, like Cadbury Creme Eggs, Lindt bunnies and Percy Pig-shaped pink chocolate.
Typically, families will give Easter eggs to each other on Easter Sunday – but this unofficial rule is generally only stuck to by those who have been fasting for Lent.
What other egg-related Easter traditions are there?
There are two other egg related traditions in the UK that have died out somewhat.
One is decorating boiled eggs by popping them in dye or painting them, before adding extra decorations like glitter or fake gems.
Another is egg rolling – a game involving rolling decorated hard boiled eggs down a hill and seeing whose egg travels the furthest.
It’s still a feature of USA Easter celebrations – most notably at the annual White House Easter celebration – but only tends to be found in Preston, Lancashire here in the UK.
Easter egg hunts are a more popular pursuit these days.
What is the Easter bunny?
The rabbit is said to hop into homes before Easter Sunday to hide Easter eggs, which children then have to find.
There are numerous theories behind what the origins of the Easter bunny are.
One school of thought is that the rabbit comes from the ancient pagan festival of Eostre, which honored the goddess of fertility and spring.
Her animal symbol is believed to have been a rabbit.
Meanwhile, in America, some people believe that the Easter bunny was introduced in the 1700s by German immigrants in Pennsylvania.
Their egg-laying hare, known as “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws”, was said to lay colorful eggs as gifts to children who were well behaved.
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