Why do we eat chocolate eggs at Easter?

What do spring, Christianity, and paganism have to do with it?

Though painted eggs were given as gifts, the tradition of chocolate Easter eggs didn’t emerge until the early 19th century

Though painted eggs were given as gifts, the tradition of chocolate Easter eggs didn’t emerge until the early 19th century

 

You may already have eaten a coop’s worth of Easter eggs this weekend, but have you ever wondered why eggs are associated with this time of year? Uncovering the origin story of the Easter egg requires the help of an historian.

Speaking to time.com, Prof Carole Levin, director of the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program at the University of Nebraska notes that “many scholars believe that Easter had its origins as an early Anglo-Saxon festival that celebrated the goddess Eastre, and the coming of spring, in a sense a resurrection of nature after winter. Some Christian missionaries hoped that celebrating Christian holy days at the same times as pagan festivals would encourage conversion, especially if some of the symbols carried over.”

According to Prof James Daybell, associate head of research at the University of Plymouth, “within the Christian tradition of Easter, the egg has long symbolised new life, birth, purity, fertility and regeneration.”

Though painted eggs were given as gifts, the tradition of chocolate Easter eggs didn’t emerge until the early 19th century. “The first chocolate Easter eggs were manufactured in France and Germany, though these were predominantly solid rather than hollow,” writes Prof Daybell. “The first British chocolate Easter egg was produced in 1873 by JS Fry & Sons, closely followed in 1875 by John Cadbury.”

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Sisters Karen and Natalie Keane, the Wexford-based chocolatiers behind Bean and Goose, see spring and Easter as a time for reawakening. Their Chocolate Bean Goose Egg (€15.50) is filled with Irish sea-salted caramel and its shell is the size of an actual goose egg.

“We start making the shells about three months in advance and we fill them with Irish sea-salted caramel at the last moment,” say the Keane sisters. Their milk chocolate egg is made with single origin 40.5 per cent Ghana cocoa and their dark shell is made with a single origin 70 per cent Saint Dominque cocoa.

It’s about creating a grown-up and beautiful chocolate for adults

They also make a chocolate hare (€17.50). “We didn’t want it to be a rabbit or a bunny,” the sisters explain. “We wanted it to be an Irish hare, something a little more elegant to reflect Bean and Goose.”

Every year, the sisters commission an Irish illustrator to design the wrap-arounds for their products and this season Steve McCarthy has given the packaging his animated touch.

“For us,” say the Keane sisters, “it’s about creating a grown-up and beautiful chocolate for adults to indulge in over Easter time.”

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