Any true chocolate lover will know that Easter is just around the corner because stores have already been swamped with delicious Easter eggs. It’s become a common part of global Easter celebrations to consume a copious amount of chocolate, but why is that? When did we start eating chocolate eggs and bunnies over Easter?
Look, I’m not complaining. I personally love the fact that I can unashamedly buy multiple packets of chocolate eggs at Easter and not get weird looks.
But the origins of our chocolate-filled holiday has always confused me. When, where and more importantly why did we start eating chocolate on Easter?
For that reason, this week’s Ask LH is all about unwrapping the history of why we eat chocolate on Easter.
Brief origins of Easter
As we move steadily towards a more secularised world, especially in Australia, the traditional origins of Easter are somewhat forgotten.
It’s a very easy oversight to make when all that Easter chocolate and baked goodies are within reach.
For those who might be unfamiliar with where Easter came from, it’s a Christian tradition that marks the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday and then his resurrection three days later.
Easter was also heavily inspired by the Pagan celebration in the Northern Hemisphere which makes the change of seasons from winter into spring.
As such, symbols of renewal and fertility, like the egg and rabbit, are heavily featured in Easter celebrations.
The egg is commonly looked at as the start of life and we all know how fertile rabbits can be.
Why chocolate eggs on Easter?
What came first, the chicken or the egg?
In the case of Easter, it’s the egg. A decorated, hard-boiled egg, in fact. Before we had our delicious chocolate Easter eggs, we first had hand-painted chicken eggs.
The hand-painted egg has many different origins from many different nations but once it found its way into Christianity it became linked with Easter.
Early Christians in Mesopotamia would paint eggs red which symbolised Jesus’ blood. I don’t know about you, but I’m glad we moved onto something that was a little bit tastier to consume.
The first chocolate Easter eggs that were sold commercially found their start way back in the early 19th century. The Industrial Revolution saw advancements in the mass production of hollow chocolate eggs by British chocolatiers J. S. Fry & Sons, Ltd. and Cadbury.
When Cadbury launched their Dairy Milk chocolate in 1905, there was a massive demand in the Easter egg market. This also established them as seasonal best-sellers.
It’s still a little unclear as to why chocolate seeped into the Easter world but I’d assume it was a way to commodify the holiday and make big bucks on the new invention.
Either way, I’m not mad at the fact I have to eat chocolate on Easter.
Where did the Easter Bunny come from?
Another interesting part of Easter that doesn’t make total sense is the fact that the Easter Bunny lays chocolate eggs.
It appears that the Easter Bunny hopped its way into our lives all the way from Germany in the 17th century. Back then it was known as the ‘Easter Hare’ who would distribute eggs to well-behaved children.
As mentioned earlier, hares, eggs and rabbits are strong symbols of fertility as the Northern Hemisphere moves into Spring.
The egg-laying rabbit found its way into America after German Lutheran immigrants arrived in the U.S. in the 1700s.
In addition to eggs, the Easter Bunny soon began to leave little treats for children as part of their holiday gifts. To show their respect for the Bunny, the children would leave carrots out as snacks.
Despite the exact origins of why we eat chocolate on Easter remaining a little murky, hopefully things make a bit more sense now.
And even though Easter is in our autumn season, we’re still more than happy to consume chocolate eggs, hot-cross buns and thank the Easter Bunny for its tasty deliveries.