Easter is the most important holiday in the Christian calendar, but also a holiday known for chocolate eggs and Easter Bunnies. Did you ever wonder where the traditions originated? Here is a quick summary to get you in the holiday mood.
Many Easter traditions have been around for centuries. The most prominent non-spiritual symbol of Easter is the Easter Bunny also known as the Easter Hare or Easter Rabbit. Although its origin is not clearly documented, historians believe that the rabbit was a pagan symbol associated with the fertility goddess Eostre or Eastre, who was recognized and celebrated by Anglo Saxons as the goddess of spring during the spring equinox. Rabbits are an ancient symbol of fertility and new life and since they are extremely happy to reproduce in spring, with up to 20 offspring per year they were linked with Easter. The name for a celebration was eventually adapted by early Christians in the year 325 who started celebrating the resurrection of Christ on the same day.
The egg is another symbol of fertility, new life and rebirth in many cultures around the world and it is believed that eggs were used during their spring festivals and also linked to pagan traditions. The precise origin of the ancient custom of decorating eggs is not known, although evidently the blooming of many flowers in spring coincides with the use of the fertility symbol of eggs and eggs boiled with some flowers change their color, bringing the spring into the homes.
From a Christian perspective, eggs were said to represent Jesus’ emergence from the tomb and resurrection. In medivial Europe it was forbidden to consume eggs during Lent and as a result all eggs laid during that time were often boiled, preserved and decorated. At Easter these eggs were consumed as a celebration and prized gifts for children and servants. The first chocolate eggs seem to have appeared in Germany and France in the 19th century and with the improvement of chocolate-making techniques, hollow eggs like we have today were developed.
The custom that the Easter Bunny is hiding brightly colored eggs and candy, has not only something to do with its religious origin. Even non-Christians follow the Easter custom and line up a feast that is celebrated mainly for children. Before the 17th century also other animals, such as the fox, stork, cuckoo or rooster brought the gifts for Easter. From the 19th century, however, the Easter Bunny has clearly established itself as undisputed symbolic animal. Over the past 200 years, the Easter Bunny has become the most commercially recognized symbol of Easter.
Easter Fun Facts
Did you know that...
- The Easter Bunny was introduced to America by German immigrants in the 18th century when they settled in Pennsylvania. The tradition was quickly spread across the country.
- The Largest Easter Egg Hunt consisted of 501,000 eggs that were searched for by 9,753 children at the Cypress Gardens Adventure Park in Winter Haven, Florida, USA, on 1 April 2007 (source: Guiness Book of World Records).
- The record for the Largest Easter Egg Tree was set by Zoo Rostock GmbH, Germany who decorated a tree with 76,596 painted hens eggs on 8 April 2007.*
- The Most Expensive Non-jewelled Chocolate Egg sold at auction for £7,000 ($11,107) and was created by William Curley, Amy Rose Curley, Alistair Birt, Sarah Frankland, Melissa Paul, Rhiann Mead (all UK) and Suzue Curley (Japan). It was sold at the Royal Courts of Justice, London, UK, on 20 March 2012.*
- The Largest Chocolate Bunny weighed 3,850 kg (8,488 lb) and was made by Brazilian company Senac-RS, for the city of Gramado's annual "Chocofest" in April 2014.*
The Tallest Chocolate Easter Egg measured 10.39 m (34 ft 1.05 in) in height and was made by Tosca (Italy). It was measured at Le Acciaierie Shopping Centre, in Cortenuova, Italy on 16 April 2011. The chocolate Easter egg weighed 7,200 kg (15,873) and had a circumference of 19.6 m (64 ft 3.65 in) at its widest point.*
*Source: Guiness Book of World Records
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