History of Chocolate and Easter

Easter is the Christian celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  This Holy Day follows the season of Lent, which is accompanied by a 40 day fast.  This fast used to be strictly observed, with no sweets, meat, eggs, dairy or animal fats consumed during this time.  So Easter was celebrated with much food and feasting, including sweets.

Eggs were a pagan symbol of fertility and rebirth.  Christians used the egg to represent the resurrection of Jesus and His emergence from the tomb after His crucifixion and burial.  It was a symbol widely used in the early Church and still used today.  After fasting from eggs for Lent, a large number of eggs needed to be used up for Easter before they would spoil.

Easter eggs were elaborately painted and decorated hollowed hen, duck or goose eggs.  My Ukrainian ancestors made beautiful pysanky eggs.  Carl Faberge of France made elaborate jeweled eggs for the Russian Czars, today worth a small fortune.  Hard boiled eggs are traditionally dyed and decorated.  It used to be dyed eggs that were hidden in the garden for egg hunts.

Chocolate was first introduced for Easter during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England.  Queen Elizabeth had banned hot cross buns because of their association with Catholicism.  They were allowed only during Easter time and they were very popular.  When chocolatiers tried to find a way to market their products, they considered the hot cross bun which was their biggest competition.  Germany and France were the first to make the chocolate Easter egg which was first sold in solid form.  As machinery was introduced into chocolate making, hollowed eggs became popular.

Another pagan symbol was a rabbit.  The early Christians were considered heretics and feared for their lives.  Their celebrations would coincide with pagan celebrations so that they could celebrate in safety and also so that they could encourage the pagans to convert to Christianity.  One such celebration was Eostre – who was the goddess of dawn and offspring.  She was worshiped as a rabbit.  Eventually this Holy Day was changed to the present day spelling of Easter.

By the 1960’s rabbits and other springtime symbols joined the chocolate egg on Easter.  Today, a wide variety of chocolate forms are enjoyed on Easter.  Children and adults alike await Easter morning with anticipation, and chocolate is the center of this anticipation.  Chocolate bunnies and Easter egg hunts are important childhood rituals.

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