Yum . . . Easter Eggs!

eggs 3 (2)

I’d intended this post to be purely about Easter eggs, but decided I couldn’t just plunge in and talk about ‘eggs’ without first saying a little about the celebration of Easter itself. So that’s what I’ve done . . .

Easter is a Christian holiday which falls in the spring, the time when the earth renews itself after a long, cold winter. The date of the holiday is not fixed, as it falls on the first Sunday following the full moon that occurs on or after the spring equinox (March 20/21). This means that Easter will fall sometime between March 22 and April 25. In contrast, Christian churches in the East, closer to the birth of Christianity, celebrated the resurrection of Christ long before the word Easter was used. The word they used for the celebration was Pascha, which is derived from and linked to the Jewish festival of Passover.

The origins of the word, EASTER have been traced to the Scandinavian/Norse word Ostra and the Germanic words Ostern or Eastre. Both of these come from the names of mythological goddesses of spring and fertility (e.g. Eostre) whose festivals were held at the time of the spring equinox.

Ostara (Eostre0 bu Johannes Gehrts, 1901. Ostara flies through the heavens surrounded by Roman inspired putti, beams of light and animals. Germanic peoples look up at the goddess from below. Public Domain.

Ostara (Eostre) by Johannes Gehrts, 1901. Ostara flies through the heavens surrounded by Roman inspired putti, beams of light and animals. Germanic peoples look up at the goddess from below.
Public Domain.

Despite being a Christian celebration, many of the customs associated with the holiday are linked to far older, pagan traditions – including the Easter egg and the Easter bunny.

The egg is an ancient symbol of fertility and new life which has long been associated with pagan festivals celebrating spring. In Christianity, for the celebration of Eastertide, Easter eggs symbolise the empty tomb – or the stone of the tomb – a reminder that Christ rose from the grave.

The decorating of eggshells was practiced long before Christian traditions. Decorated ostrich eggs that are 60,000 years old have been found in Africa, and representations of ostrich eggs in gold and silver were often placed on the graves of ancient Sumerians and Egyptians as early as 5.000 years ago.

Ostrich egg shell with painted red lines. Punic artwork from Iron Age II. Current location: National Archaeological Museum of Spain. Photographer: Luis Garcia (Zarqarbal). Commons.

Ostrich egg shell with painted red lines. Punic artwork from Iron Age II. Current location: National Archaeological Museum of Spain. Photographer: Luis Garcia (Zarqarbal). Commons.

The Christian custom of the Easter egg can be traced back to the early Christians of Mesopotamia, who stained eggs red in memory of the blood of Christ shed at his crucifixion. The Christian Church officially adopted the custom, regarding the symbol as the resurrection of Jesus. In modern-day Greece, the custom of painting eggs blood-red is still practised:

Painted eggs from (present day) Greece. Author: Tony Esopi from el. Commons

Painted eggs from present-day Greece. Author: Tony Esopi from el. Common

In the earliest days, people gave each other gifts of eggs carved from wood or precious stones. The decorating of eggs for Easter is a tradition that is believed to date back to the 13th century. It is thought that the custom arose because eggs were a forbidden food during Lent, so people would paint and decorate them to mark the end of the period of penance and fasting. The eggs would then be eaten at Easter as a celebration.

By the 18th century, pasteboard or papier mache eggs were given, holding small gifts, and by the 19th century, cardboard eggs covered with silk, lace or velvet and fastened with ribbon, were fashionable. More exquisite and costly eggs were also being created in the 19th century from materials such as ivory and porcelain, and often inlaid with jewels. The most spectacular of these was perhaps the one made by Carl Faberge in 1887 for the Russian Czar and Czarina. Today this, and other such elaborate creations, are museum pieces.

Imperial Coronation egg, photographed at an exhibition in Rome.. Author: Miguel Hermoso-Cuesta. Commons.

Imperial Coronation egg photographed at an exhibition in Rome. Author: Miguel Hermoso-Cuesta. Commons.

Chocolate Easter eggs have developed from a simple type wrapped in paper to the more elaborate  ones in bright foil, packed in a fancy box or basket. The first chocolate eggs were produced in France and Germany in the early 19th century. Some of the earliest eggs were solid, and the first hollow eggs were very difficult to make as the moulds had to be lined with paste chocolate, one at a time!

John Cadbury began making his first ‘French eating chocolate’ in 1842, and by 1875, the first Cadbury’s Easter Eggs were made. But it was a slow business until a method was found of making the chocolate flow into the moulds. (I won’t go into the process by which this was done here!)

John Cadbury, founder of the Cadbury chocolate making company. Photo taken prior to 1889. Public Domain.

John Cadbury, founder of the Cadbury chocolate making company. Photo taken prior to 1889. Public Domain.

The earliest Cadbury eggs were made of dark chocolate, with a plain, smooth surface and filled with dragees  (hard, bite-sized, colourful forms of confectionery, with a hard, outer shell, and sometimes used for cake decoration. Unlike those in the picture below, many are spherical. Small, silver dragees are often used to decorate wedding cakes).

Jordan almonds - a form of dragees. Photographer: Alex Kasperavicius. Public Domain.

Jordan almonds – a form of dragees. Photographer: Alex Kasperavicius. Public Domain.

The outer ‘shells’ of the Cadbury eggs were decorated with marzipan flowers and chocolate piping. But more  decorative designs soon followed and by 1893, Cadbury could boast 19 different lines. The ‘crocodile skin’ finish of the shell came from Germany – a technique that was ideal for disguising flaws in the smooth surface of the chocolate. Nowadays there are many distinctive designs from different manufacturers.

It was the introduction of the famous Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Chocolate that made the greatest contribution to Easter egg sales. Today, the Easter egg market is predominantly milk chocolate.

The traditional decorating of eggs for Easter (both chicken eggs and artificial ones) continues in many countries today. Most are incredibly beautiful. This post would be far too long if I were to show some of these here, so I’ll leave the topic of Easter eggs with a link to a wonderful post by my blogging friend, Amanda (forestwoodfolkart) over at Something to Ponder About. As someone very much into art and decoration, Amanda knows what she’s talking about.

Me . . .? I just adore Cadbury’s chocolate!

Check out the link to Amanda’s post:

Easter Eggs – Traditional Art in Eastern Europe

There are many other interesting Easter traditions, such as egg-rolling, eating hot-cross buns, Easter parades, and Easter bonnets. Not to mention the Easter Bunny! But I’ll  leave those to talk about next year.

Easter postcard c early 20th century.Author: ItsLassieTime. Public Domain

Easter postcard c early 20th century. Author: ItsLassieTime. Public Domain

About milliethom

I am a reader and writer of historical fiction with a keen interest in the Earth's history and all it involves, both physically and socially. I like nothing better than to be outdoors, especially in faraway places, and baking is something I do when my eyes need respite from my computer screen.
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56 Responses to Yum . . . Easter Eggs!

  1. What a coincident : my son and I discussed the idea of not having long weekends like Easter because the Christian way isn’t that important anymore so why should there be Christian related holidays? Very interesting.

    • milliethom says:

      It’s the same here, Ineke. Few people nowadays think of Easter as a religious festival. For a start, hot cross buns are in the shops as early as February. Easter eggs are just an excuse to gorge on chocolate to most people. Christmas isn’t a lot different, either. But we keep the traditions going, and school terms revolve around them. Thanks, Scrapydo! 🙂

  2. Happy Easter, Millie!

    • milliethom says:

      Happy Easter to you. too, Danela. I hope all is well and you’re still enjoying doing your delicious recipes.

      • Thank you, Millie! I do enjoy it very much.
        I’m actually celebrating Easter on 1st of May this Easter, l’m a Christian Orthodox and we follow a different calendar, it only happens once every few years that Easter falls on the same day. So l get to eat chocolate and yummy food twice, lucky me 😁

  3. These Easter eggs look so yum 😋 I want them!!

  4. Frances 🌺 says:

    Happy Easter Millie! Thanks for sharing this lovely post 🐣

  5. Now you have piqued my interest about the Easter bunny!! Great post on the old pagan traditions. So many of them were adopted by the early christians, albeit in a slightly modified format. Which seems a little bit manipulative and calculating and a little bit “..if you can’t beat them, join them!”
    Appreciate the linkback!

    • milliethom says:

      The traditions about the Easter Bunny are interesting Amanda. I know you don’t have a ‘bunny’ as a symbol of Easter in Australia because of the way rabbits are such a ‘pest’ (in the wider, agricultural sense) out there. But many of the early British myths include references to rabbits – or, more often, hares. I couldn’t possibly have fitted everything into one post. And you’re right, many Christian festivals have incorporated pagan traditions into them, including Christmas.

      • The Easter bunny is still a force to be reckoned with here at Easter time, Millie. Plenty of chocolate bunnies in the stores, but the Easter bilby has made some inroads…. as a conservation awareness and fundraiser more than anything else. But the rabbit is still a pest too.

  6. cynthiamvoss says:

    This was interesting and informative, thanks for the info! Happy Easter to you!

  7. Ann Koplow says:

    Wonderful post, Millie! Happy Easter!

  8. Very interesting bit of history, Millie! I enjoyed reading this. Happy Easter!

  9. Shew, Millie. What an interesting and in depth post. Lovely to know the history of Easter…
    I am going to check out your friends blog 🙂 . I have to say…I love Cadbury’s too ! Hope you are having a chocolate filled day 🙂 x

    • milliethom says:

      Thanks Lynne. I can’t resist tracing the history of all these old customs. They just fascinate me. Amanda’s blog is great and she often does posts about various European customs and traditions. She lives in Australia, but can trace her roots back to Scandinavia. (She’s a real Viking at heart! Lol)
      Cadbury’s has always been the best chocolate, in my opinion. I’s so deliciously creamy. I really daren’t open any because mu will power just goes out the window! 🙂

  10. Joy Pixley says:

    I had no idea that egg decorating started so very long ago, that’s fascinating! It’s really interesting, how many “modern” things were done by people in ancient times.

    Now you have me hungry for chocolate eggs!

    • milliethom says:

      I know. It really doesn’t do to even talk about chocolate – and Easter is such a time of over-indulgence. I have to force myself not to open an Easter egg or I won’t be satisfied until it’s all gone!
      I found all the details about decorating eggs fascinating, too. You’re right, so many of our customs today go back hundreds, or sometimes thousands, of years. 🙂

  11. Antonia says:

    Great post Millie! How interesting about Cadbury chocolate eggs. I hope you are having a wonderful Easter!

    • milliethom says:

      Thank you, Antonia. I’ve had a nice, chocolatey day. I had a lovely long walk this morning to burn up some of the calories. Lol I’ve loved Cadbury’s chocolate since I was very young. My mum never bought any other brand. We do (or rather, did) have other lovely chocolate manufacturers in the UK – like Rowntrees, Nestles and Terry’s. Most have now been taken over by big concerns, like Nestle. 🙂

      • Antonia says:

        Chocolatey days are the best 🙂 I adore Cadburys and love the eggs with the candy shell, but I have to stay away from them. I eat way too many! It is nice that you walked before you ate..lol.

    • milliethom says:

      Thanks, Antonia, we had a lovely family Easter. It is interesting about John Cadbury and the earliest Easter eggs, isn’t it? I find the whole idea behind what ‘the egg’ has come to represent through the ages very interesting. Some of the eggs decorated in some countries today are really beautiful. I hope you had a lovely Easter, too.

  12. Lina says:

    Happpyyyy Easter! Lovely post😊

  13. Happy Easter, Millie!! Was nice knowing about the tradition and history behind the symbol of eggs. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  14. nowathome says:

    Yummy!! Happy Easter!

  15. Good for you, I think we sometimes forget what the eggs are about in Easter.

    • milliethom says:

      That’s very true. But it’s the same with many other customs/traditions we celebrate, isn’t it – even Christmas ones? Few people know why we have a Christmas tree, or use holly and mistletoe and eat mince pies. And Pancake Day is simply not celebrated in many households nowadays. I love the old traditions and enjoy writing about them. I’ll be running out of British ones before long and have to look further afield. Thanks Bekki. 🙂

      • I mutter about Christmas, but never think people don’t know what pancake is about. What really bugs me though is when people give things up for lent but have no religious attachment to it. Which is very hypocritical, since I’ll celebrate pancake day with no religious attachment! Bonkers!

      • milliethom says:

        That’s the way it is for most of us, I think, Bekki. We’re all hypocritical over some things. With Pancake Day it’s more that people don’t eat them because they see them as unhealthy, or fattening (although those same people may happily eat loads of chocolate eggs). Some people just forget PD, others can’t be bothered to make them. Like you, we celebrate it without religious attachment – but because we always have done. And I’m a creature of habit! 😀

  16. Susan Langer says:

    Very enjoyable and learned a lot. 🙂

    • milliethom says:

      Hi Susan. I’m glad you like my post. I learned a few things myself while I was looking things up. I didn’t know about the Faberge-style eggs for a start! We live and learn. 🙂

  17. Hi Millie, I hope you don’t mind me putting your link on my blog with my easter egg search!:)

    • milliethom says:

      I’d be delighted, Ineke! How could I mind? Link away. Hope you are keeping well. We never seem to have time to chat nowadays. 🙂

      • Thanks! I still appreciate your interesting pieces of writing. Since working my 3 hours a day it is as if I am too tired to really do something at the end of the day. I miss the chats. We’ll get there again. How was your Easter weekend? Mine was very busy helping my son with his small business(which is slowly getting better and better!)

      • milliethom says:

        Great news about your son’s business! Let’s hope it becomes a great success.
        Yes, we’ll definitely get back to regular chats. I’m really concentrating on my book now and once I’ve finished I’ll feel a lot happier! I’ll be doing very few posts for the next few weeks, but I intend to keep the odd ones up. I know how busy you must be , with school as well. From your lovely post showing the playground, it looks a lovely job you’ve got. Keep well! 🙂

      • Good on you for keeping on writing. I stopped my flash fiction writing because I’m tired in the evenings! Maybe I’ll start again after my month of Blogging from A-Z in April.

      • milliethom says:

        I’ve only done a couple of flash fic stories since Christmas. I like to do the odd one now and then, and I miss doing them. I just need to focus on my own story now, and writing flash alters my train of thought. I also keep up my travel posts because I still have several to write up from last year’s trips.
        I imagine Blogging A-Z is time consuming, and yes, you do need time to rest after work! I’ve never tried any of those things, like Blogging 101 and so on. I find it hard to do my other posts!

      • Doing the challenges helps me focus on a certain element of blogging. I still copy and file most of the flash fiction photos. I use them in my own time.

  18. You so did used to be a Teacher!
    I loved reading that and learning so much 🙂
    Mind you, no matter what anyone says, I still bluddy love a Cadbury’s Easter egg!!

    • milliethom says:

      Thanks, Cameron. I suppose I just find it hard to stop being a teacher! Lol I love finding out things and just can’t manage to keep them to myself. As for Cadbury’s chocolate … no other comes near it, as far as I’m concerned. The taste is just so unique to Cadbury’s and I’ve loved it for well over 60 years – so I’m unlikely to change now. Your estimation of Cadbury’s eggs is just perfect! 🙂

  19. I agree with Cameron love the chocolate eggs. nice post dear Millie, you always teach us new things! xx

  20. Very interesting!
    About chocolate eggs, I have to say I always buy them after Easter, they’re much cheaper and still delicious 😉

    • milliethom says:

      You know, when my children were young, we always managed to buy Easter eggs after Easter, when the were cheap. Now it seems they whip the left over ones off the shelves pretty quick! Just as well, for me. I’d be gorging on chocolate all year.
      Thanks for sharing that thought, Rockhopper. 🙂

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