Isabelle recently asked me why we gift family and friends chocolate, namely Easter Eggs, at Easter. It’s an interesting question and one of my immediate replies is always, well why not? Chocolate is the most welcome gift for all occasions! But, of course, there is a real story behind it, which you may remember from school or church when you were younger.
Easter is a Christian celebration that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Bible says that Christ died on the cross on a day we now call, Good Friday, which this year falls on 10 April. Easter is on different dates each year, between 21 March and 25 April, depending on when there’s a full moon in Spring. According to the Bible, Jesus was then resurrected and came back to life on Easter Sunday. This is the most important day in the Christian calendar.
In the Christian calendar, Easter begins with Lent—a 40-day period of fasting, prayer and sacrifice. Traditionally, pancakes are associated with Shrove Tuesday, the day preceding Lent, because they are a way to use up rich foods such as eggs, milk, and sugar, before the fasting season of the 40 days of Lent. Shrove, derived from shrive, refers to the confession of sins as a preparation for Lent, a usual practice in Europe in the Middle Ages. I always say that it’s funny how pancakes used to be to use up the rich food in the household but in modern times people normally shop for the ingredients to make and adorn pancakes.
Lent begins the following day, on Ash Wednesday. Nowadays during Lent, most people choose their own vice to give up for the Lenten period. Some Christian communities still observe fasting rituals for all or some of the 40 days of Lent and most still observe the practice of no meat on Good Friday. Traditionally eggs were also forbidden during the last week of Lent, Holy Week.
Knowing how Christians had given up rich food and eggs, it makes sense that they’d be looking forward to feasting on these once the period of Lent comes to an end. Traditionally, on Easter Sunday, Christians will spend time at church in thought, prayer and celebration of Jesus Christ’s life. They may get together with friends and family for a special meal, usually a roast dinner. They will enjoy Easter treats such as Hot Cross Buns. Different parts of the hot cross bun have a certain meaning. The cross represents the crucifixion of Jesus, and the spices inside signify the spices used to embalm him at his burial.
Chocolate Easter Eggs
When eating eggs was still forbidden during Holy Week, any eggs laid that week were saved and decorated to make them Holy Week eggs, that were then given to children as gifts. Victorians adapted this tradition with satin-covered cardboard eggs filled with Easter gifts. This developed into the tradition that many people still enjoy today.
The first chocolate eggs appeared in France and Germany in the 19th Century, but they were bitter and hard. As chocolate-making techniques improved, hollow eggs like the ones we have today were developed. They very quickly became popular and remain a favourite tradition with chocolate-lovers today. Chocolate is often one of the vices “given up” for Lent so, a gift of a chocolate Easter Egg is very much appreciated.
The first chocolate Easter Eggs appeared in the UK in the late 1800s. Thorntons have been making Easter Eggs since 1922, that’s nearly 100 years of Easter Eggs. Eggs are also a symbol of new life so Chocolate Easter Eggs, Chicks and Bunnies are all great gifts for this time of year (and I still stand by my original answer that chocolate is always a great gift at ANY time of year!).
I can guess your next question- “Why do we have the Easter Bunny?” Well, that’s another story…