For many, Easter represents a time of year when you can take a short holiday with the family, visit relatives or indulge in one-too-many chocolates – all in the name of tradition. But really, considering that Easter’s true foundations date back hundreds of years , we can’t help but asking ourselves: “How in the world did eggs, basket-carrying bunnies, and sweet, sweet chocolate become a part of this holiday?”
Spring, Eggs, Hares and Lent – The Six Degrees of Separation
The theories are varied, but the general consensus is that, even centuries ago, spring and Easter represented a time of rebirth and fertility for many cultures around the world. In conjunction with the revival of nature during this season, two other symbols also became engrained in popular culture, and those were hares and eggs.
Well rabbits and hares have been symbols of fertility since antiquity because both species can breed faster and more abundantly than other animals. Considering that hares are more common in Europe, they were Europe’s symbolic animal of choice for Easter. Then, as the tradition made its way over to America, the hare was swapped for a rabbit or bunny – we can only imagine because these species are more common to America, and have that deliciously cute commercial appeal.
Like rabbits, eggs have historically represented fertility. In addition, spring is generally the time of year when most birds nest, hence, grouping eggs, the Vernal Equinox and Easter together seems pretty logical.
Other historians guess that the Christian observance of ‘Lent’ also played a role in making eggs popular during the Easter. Traditionally observed up to six weeks before Easter, Lent is a penitential preparation where devout followers fast or give up certain luxuries until Easter Sunday.
Considering that eggs were luxuries back in the day, many people would renounce them during Lent, saving many for the celebrations on Easter Sunday (they didn’t have fridges back then, so they consumed the eggs as soon as possible, thus, eggs + Easter Sunday = makes sense).
OK, but What about This Whole Chocolate Thing?
Good question. So who exactly is responsible for adding chocolate to the mix? Well theories suggest that somewhere in 18th century, German immigrants in the US started a tradition involving an ‘Osterhas’ – which roughly translates into ‘Easter Hare’. Much like Santa, this hare left coloured eggs for good children who deserved them. This legend was then later popularized by Jakob Grimm who also suggested that the Germanic goddess Ostara played a role in the fable as well. At least there is a small comfort in knowing that, even back then, parents had to bribe their children to behave. Think of the eggs as a modern day X-Box.
Hold on, we’re getting there. So, after this egg-laying bunny tradition became somewhat popular, it seems that in France and Germany people began making small chocolate eggs. Then, as the industrial revolution made machinery popular, the abundance of mass produced eggs also became popular. Finally, in 1873, Cadbury created the first commercial chocolate Easter egg – and how!
Apparently, Cadbury’s gooey sugar filled crème egg still reigns as the number one chocolate Easter egg in the world, with approximately 213 million of them eaten every year.
Voila! There you have it. Centuries of Easter history in a nutshell – or should we say – in an eggshell.
If you’re trying to limit your chocolate consumption, and simply want a sweet holiday getaway for Easter, then Sandman has some spectacular spring packages ripe for the picking too. Whether you want to visit Victoria, hit up some BC interior wineries, go through the Albertan Rockies, or take part in East Coast celebrations, we have a plethora of Hot Deals here: http://www.sandmanhotels.ca/specials-rewards/hot-deals/
And with that, from everyone here at Sandman we wish you and your family a great Easter long weekend!