Growing up, Easter was a holiday where families would come together in their best clothes, attend church, search for Easter eggs, and open baskets filled with jellybeans, chocolate, toys, and other candies. This is the tradition for most families, but have you ever thought about where these traditions originated? https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/easter-symbols gives us the history of the Easter basket filled with candy, the Easter bunny, Easter eggs, and the traditional Easter candy.
The Easter Bunny
The idea of the Easter Bunny was brought over by the Germans when large groups immigrated to Pennsylvania in the 1700’s. The Germans called this rabbit that laid colorful eggs “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws.” Per the tradition, children would make nests for the rabbit to the lay the colorful eggs in. Over time, the children creating nests soon evolved to Easter baskets that were filled with all sorts of candy, including jelly beans, chocolate eggs, chocolate bunnies, peeps, and other items including toys. Like Santa, children would leave out treats for the Easter bunny in case he got hungry during his many deliveries.
“The largest Easter egg ever made was over 25 feet high and weighed over 8,000 pounds. It was built out of chocolate and marshmallow and supported by an internal steel frame.”
Although we see that the tradition of the colorful eggs was brought over by the Germans, the Pagans and Christians also had their own idea about what the Easter Egg meant to them. The Pagans believed that the egg represented new life and was associated with the celebration of Spring. The Christians believed that the Easter Egg represented the resurrection of Jesus Christ and of Jesus emerging from his tomb. Starting in the 13th century, families that celebrated Lent and gave up eggs, would decorate and color the eggs as a way of celebrating the end of their fasting period. These colorful eggs would then be eaten on Easter.
With the large symbolic meaning of the Easter egg, associated with the resurrection of Jesus and new life, the development of egg shaped candy began in the 19th century. It began with the creation of chocolate eggs, and soon developed into jelly beans in the 1930’s and yellow, marshmallow chicks in the past ten years. Like most other traditions, the Peep began in the shape of a yellow chick and soon evolved to include other colors and other shapes including the chocolate mousse bunny.
“According to the National Confectioners Association, over 16 billion jelly beans are made in the U.S. each year for Easter, enough to fill a giant egg measuring 89 feet high and 60 feet wide.”
Whether these traditions are celebrated by your family year after year, I hope everyone has a blessed, safe, and fun filled Easter!