Easter habits and bunnies
Easter is the largest chocolate shopping holiday of the year, with eggs and bunnies sharing the top 2 in the sales statistics, followed, at a distant, by chocolate chicken, chicks and lambs. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest Easter egg ever was made in Italy in 2011. The colossal chocolate sculpture had a circumference of almost 20 meter and weighted 7,200 kg. The largest chocolate bunny was created by four people in South Africa; it took them three days to sculpt the 3000 kg chocolate rodent of 3.65 meters high. The largest egg hunt ever was held in Winter Haven, Florida, and involved a whopping 501,000 eggs.
All around the world Easter is associated with eggs, bunnies, chicken and lambs, and most of these in a chocolate form.
We wonder why…
Traditionally eggs are considered a symbol of rebirth and the arrival of spring. Not only in Europe and not only now, but also farther away and long ago: in the Persian Empire (559 – 331 BC) people celebrated the arrival of a new year with painted eggs. When the Catholic Church introduced Lent, it was forbidden to eat eggs between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. No wonder people felt like eating an egg at Easter.
Why egg hunts?
Why do people hide eggs if they love them so much? The tradition of egg hunt originates from the Teutons, an ancient Germanic tribe that roamed in today’s Western Europe around the last century BC. The Teutons buried eggs in their fields, hoping it would help to make the fields fertile and ensure a good harvest.
The story of the Easter Bunny also stems from the Teutons. In one of their myths a young girl finds an injured bird. She asks the goddess Ostara for help. To her delight Ostara arrives, she turns the bird into a hare, and tells the girl that the animal will come once a year to lay coloured eggs. Although scholars do not agree about the origin of the Easter bunny and there are other explanations, we like this story the best.
Why Easter bunny and not Easter hare?
The Easter Hare became a Bunny when German immigrants brought their Teutonic Easter egg hunt traditions to the USA. Perhaps it also helped that rabbits have so many offspring per litter, supporting the symbol of new life. However, the original story is about a hare, and in many countries (including Belgium) people still talk about the Easter Hare. Which is good: hares have larger ears, thus more chocolate to enjoy!
Why Easter Bilby in Australia?
To raise awareness about the dwindling Bilby population, confectioners in Australia have started to make chocolate likenesses of this small rabbit-size marsupial. We immediately see variations on this theme: pandas, gorillas, rhinos, snow leopards, tigers, blue whales, Asian elephants, orang-utans… Admitted, we like to think big!
Confectioners in France and Germany invented the chocolate egg in the early 19th century as a luxury version of the traditional Easter egg (the one from a chicken). A type of eating chocolate had been invented a few years earlier, and the first chocolate eggs were probably grainy, coarse and bitter. Definitely not as delicious and beautiful as todays’ creations, but its appearance marked the beginning of a long relation between Easter and chocolate.
Why chicks and lambs?
The relation between chicks and eggs is obvious, but it is mainly the yellow colour of the little creatures that makes them perfect for Easter as a symbol of sunshine. Lambs are born in spring and mark the end of winter and the arrival of the new season. In many countries the breakfast table on Easter Sunday features butter lambs.
Interesting Easter traditions
To finish off, here are some interesting Easter traditions from all over the world:
- In Bermuda, flying kites is the thing to do on Easter Sunday.
- In Poland, they prefer to hold water fights.
- In Finland, families go outside to watch the grass grow (really?). Meanwhile Finish children dress up as witches and go door to door to ask for (chocolate) treats.
- In Corfu, Greece, people smash their old pottery on Easter Sunday.
- Egg rolling competitions are popular in the USA, and have been seen on the lawn of the White House.
- Norwegians prefer to spend their Easter reading crime novels and watching crime series.
- To scare off evil ghosts and ensure good harvests, fireworks are set off at Easter in Florence, Italy.
- The residents of Haux, France crack more than 4,000 eggs into a gigantic pan to create a massive Easter omelette that serves 1,000 people.
- In the Czech Republic and Slovakia men roam the streets with decorated willow switches to whip girls. Intention is not to be painful, but to ensure good health and beauty. We think Czech and Slovakian girls should return the favour!