The origins of chocolate eggs and Easter bunnies come from an entanglement of Paganism and Christianity. Whichever side of the fence you sit on, most can agree that both eggs and rabbits symbolize fertility and rebirth. For Christians specifically, an egg represents the empty tomb of Jesus. Red dye colours the egg to represent the blood of Christ. Moreover, it is thought that church leaders banned the eating of eggs during the Holy Week leading up to Easter, wanting to save their consumption for the resurrection of Christ celebrations.
For Pagans celebrating the Spring Equinox, it goes back to the Scandinavian ‘Ostra’ and the Germanic ‘Ostern’ or ‘Eastre’, their names derived from the mythological goddesses of spring and fertility. All of these goddesses had close associations with rabbits. Rabbits are the most potent symbol of fertility and eggs, thought to have magical powers. Additionally, they represent the start of all life.
Germany is the birthplace of our beloved Easter Bunny. Here kids believed if they behaved well, the rabbit would bring them colourful eggs. These beautiful eggs were something everyone would look forward to. Depending on the European culture, styles and colours were varied. Greeks traditionally make red eggs. Eastern Europeans have more elaborate decorations of gold and silver. And Austrians have beautiful plants like ferns.
It wasn’t until the 19th century when chocolate eggs started appearing in France and Germany as solid eggs. Later progress refined the chocolate-making technique, allowing for modern eggs. You know, the hollow chocolate moulds. Just as real egg decorations varied, so too did chocolate eggs; the Cadbury Brothers leading the pack with French, Dutch, and German designs adapted to Victorian tastes. But what about Easter in other countries?
While learning about the history of chocolate eggs and Easter bunnies, I did come across mentions of other animals and objects delivering Easter treats. Take, for example, Switzerland: did you know cuckoos deliver their eggs? Or that some parts of Germany are lucky enough to have a fox deliver their colourful eggs? Perhaps you knew that some Australians prefer to swap a rabbit for an Easter bilby? This is a native marsupial with long ears. It hops around just like a rabbit does. Another impressive Easter tradition comes from France with the Easter Bells.
The church bells silently fly to the Pope in Rome where he blesses them! On their return they scatter eggs in French gardens. The Easter Sunday church bells announce their return, the Resurrection, and the Easter egg hunt! Happy Easter, everyone.
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