Why do we give Easter eggs to each other?
When did Easter stop being about religious miracles are start being about chocolate? It could simply be a sign that religion plays a smaller role in most lives than it did hundreds of years ago, but actually, Easter eggs themselves are a tradition with surprising religious roots. The biggest surprise? That religion isn’t Christianity!
The name “Easter” itself is thought to have been derived from the Scandinavian word “Ostra,” which relates to ancient goddesses of spring and fertility. Rabbits have always been seen as potent symbols of fertility (which is why we have the Easter Bunny) and the egg obviously also represents new life. And this is an idea that stretches back to a pre-Christian era.
The chocolate egg might be a relatively modern tradition, but the egg as a symbol of rebirth and fertility has been for quite literally thousands of years. Easter falls around the time of the Spring equinox (March 21), which marks the only day of the year when day and night are perfectly parallel. Pagans would celebrate this day as the end of the long nights of winter and a period of renewal.
Indeed, even to this day, modern Pagans celebrate this time of year, even holding egg and spoon races and egg hunts to mark the occasion – a practice that has been co-opted by Christian families and is seen as a pretty major aspect of Easter by many. But it’s not just Pagan culture that Easter is guilty of cribbing the best ideas from.
Easter also happens to fall around the time of the Jewish Passover, which commemorates the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. This is a time of feasting and celebration for Jewish communities, where special foods are consumed and rituals observed. It’s perfectly possible that, at some point, the tradition of Passover became blurred somewhat with Easter celebrations, which is where the concept of decadent dining over the period finds its origin.
For 30 million British Christians, Easter remains the most important festival of the year, commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But how does that relate to the chocolate easter egg? In the days before Christianity, eggs were painted in bright colours as decorations during the season and this is a custom that was adopted across Europe.
It wasn’t until the 19th century that chocolate eggs started to emerge, with Cadbury’s creating their first chocolate eggs in 1875. Early eggs were solid, as the process of manufacturing a hollow egg that was able to hold together was not perfected until many years later. It wasn’t until after 1905, when Cadbury’s famous milk chocolate had been perfected, that the Easter egg as we know and love it today was firmly established. And long may that tradition continue!