Where our most beloved Easter traditions came from
It’s probably one of the most confusing times of the year. On the one hand, it’s filled with myths and legends that collide with rituals involving magical bunnies and chocolate eggs. It’s a time of the year when the scent of freshly baked hot cross buns, bunny chows, bobotie and Hertzoggies loom in the air and every second braai flares up with the smell of traditionally made roosterkoek. Grocery aisles fill up with a wide array of chocolate eggs, and children and adults gather in backyards across the world for an annual egg hunt! Most remarkably, one question that is most common in many households this time of the year: “Does the Bunny really exist?”
What is this significant holiday really about? Is it simply a culmination of different cultural practices and religious beliefs, or a mishmash of fables, folktales and myths? And why is it associated with a bunny that can lay eggs? Where do all these Easter traditions come from? To get to the bottom of it all, we went on a hunt.
WHAT’S UP WITH THE EASTER BUNNY?
The common belief that Easter eggs were a traditional part of the holiday is actually a misconception. The association can be traced back to the German goddess Eostre, also known as Ostara, who supposedly transformed her pet bird into a rabbit. This rabbit would then bring brightly coloured eggs to children as gifts from the goddess.
The children would discover eggs left by Eostre’s bunny in their shoes while they slept at home. As the number of eggs increased, children started making baskets to hold them all. Over time, the tradition of the Easter Bunny has evolved and spread to different cultures worldwide. In some, the Easter Bunny is said to lay the eggs himself, while in others he simply delivers them in big baskets. Regardless of the tradition, the Easter Bunny remains a symbolic and whimsical symbol of this holiday.
WHAT CAME FIRST, THE EGG OR THE BUNNY?
This time of the year, egg sales are probably at their peak as parents frantically prepare hard-boiled eggs to eventually become a form of their child’s personal expression – dyeing and painting them with bright colours. But why eggs, and what does it have to do with this sacred holiday? As the tradition of decorating eggs for Easter has taken on a somewhat symbolic meaning, there’s no denying that this tradition has evolved over time and holds different meanings for different cultures.
Some cultures believe that the egg represents the tomb from which Jesus rose on Easter Sunday, the hard shell of the egg symbolises the sealed tomb, and the new life inside represents the resurrection. The practice of eggs for Easter was common in the early Mesopotamian church too, where real eggs were dyed red to symbolise the blood of Jesus and cracked against each other as a symbol of the empty tomb and new life. Other traditions, such as the ancient pagan traditions, see the egg as a symbol of fertility and new life. Eggs were often exchanged as gifts during Spring as a way to bring good luck and prosperity for the coming year.
Whether you prefer a quirky, fantastical version of the story or a more historical or religious one, there’s no denying the Easter egg has become a significant, enduring symbol of this holiday.
The first edible and hollowed-out chocolate Easter egg made dates back to the early 19th century by British confectionery company Fry’s. French and German confectioners had made solid chocolate eggs in the early 19th century too, but these were grainy and bitter. How, then, did this confectionary become an Easter tradition?
A tale abounds that the tradition of chocolate Easter eggs originated when a group of mischievous fairies decided to play a prank on a group of humans who were celebrating the spring equinox. These fairies snuck into villages and hid all the eggs, leaving the villagers in a panic as they searched high and low for their missing eggs. Luckily, a group of friendly chocolate-making elves happened to be passing through the village at the same time. Seeing the distress of the villagers, the elves decided to use their magical chocolate-making powers to create batches of chocolate eggs to replace the missing ones. The villagers were overjoyed, and soon chocolate Easter eggs became widespread.
Over time, the tradition evolved and spread to different cultures around the world, with people creating and decorating their own Easter eggs in all sorts of creative and delicious ways.
RESPONSIBLY SOURCED, INDULGENTLY MADE
All cocoa beans used in the Forage and Feast chocolate range are responsibly sourced and externally verified, so you can indulge guilt free. The Dark Hollow Easter Egg in the Forage and Feast Easter range is made from the best quality, smooth and decadent Belgian chocolate. The limited-edition Indulgent Chocolate Egg selection is the perfect treat for Easter, and has something different for everyone, while the Decadent Chocolate Egg Selection makes a great gift – even if it’s just for yourself – and bursts with a variety of textures and flavours.