What makes an Easter Egg special?Fri 26th March 2021
Eggs are a pre-historic symbol of life & rebirth dating back 60,000 years with the discovery of decorated Ostrich eggs in Africa, making the traditions behind Easter some of the oldest we still observe.
From Ancient Egypt to Judaism to Christianity, through the middle-ages and into modern day celebrations, Easter is steeped in history, but today with our cheap chocolate and mass-produced eggs it is at risk of becoming bland and generic and perhaps the least festive holiday on the Calendar. So I ask, why should we care about Easter, and what makes an Easter Egg special?
Easter is a true blend of traditions, for Christians based around the egg as a symbol of both the egg-shaped stone that was rolled away from the entrance of Jesus’ tomb, and the re-birth itself, but beyond that it is a celebration of Spring, after the cold winter, that everyone can enjoy. Eggs began their tenure as the symbol of life in ancient history; in the early cultures
of Mesopotamia and Crete, as well as Egyptian and Sumerian culture, decorated Ostrich eggs were commonly placed in graves.
It is believed the mixing of cultures through time spread this tradition far and wide, with white eggs being part of the Jewish Passover tradition, and Christianity spreading it through Greece and even into Russia, the birthplace of the fantastically decorated Fabergé eggs. It seems that the egg has always been a muse for humanity, making birth, death and rebirth
a common theme throughout history.
For Christians, the Easter egg holds a special status beyond that of other cultures as it marks the end of lent; a fast for 40 days nights that comes from Jesus’s temptation by the devil in the desert. Although a true fast may have once been observed, it is common for us to abstain from a guilty pleasure for the duration of lent, the idea being this abstinence brings us
closer to God and Jesus’ trials. The use of an egg as a gift may have come from the middle ages when eggs were prohibited
over the lent period, so it was common for children to go door-todoor begging for eggs before the fast began. As chocolate became more commonplace and cheaper for the average citizen to afford, it cemented its status as an affordable luxury and so this became a popular choice for abstinence over lent.
As anyone addicted to the brown stuff knows, putting down a chocolate bar can be particularly difficult, so after 40 days and 40 nights without this irresistible treat a giant chocolate egg is just what we need! This egg symbolises so much; often decorated or foiled it borrows from the egg decorating traditions of ancient history, it is a direct metaphor for the stone at
Jesus’ tomb, the obvious inspiration of chickens and birds as they couple in the spring, but importantly it is end of lent and a time to reflect on hardship and indulge in the special things in life again.
Nowadays chocolate eggs are mainly made in factories, stacked high and sold cheap by the biggest supermarkets and smallest petrol stations alike, so one could argue that the magic of abstinence, and finally cracking into something special, is fading away. Easter is now often dubbed one of the most commercialised holidays and its significance mainly lost, so how can we bring back some of that old magic and tradition?
In 2021, with the world in the state that it is, I think we have all given up enough, for too long. In many ways we have been living in a prolonged lent that started in lock down and ends who-knows when. This spring, with the promise of an easing of restrictions, Easter may come to symbolise a new re-birth, the re-birth of our society and back to an old normal. So in my opinion we should rekindle some festivities and celebrate by doing something truly special this Easter.
This year, more than ever, go for something handmade that can come to symbolise our re-birth at this time as we near the end of lockdown. Something wonderfully thoughtful and decorated or packaged to make a special treat that makes the received stop and reflect for a second on the trials and rewards of life.
Up and down the country, chocolatiers are hand-mixing, pouring, spinning and layering chocolate eggs using sustainable and ethical chocolate to deliver an inspiring treat that really encapsulates what this ancient tradition is all about. We are fighting against the flatness the mass-produced market has created, and fighting to uphold the traditions and significance of the holidays we partake in, to keep Easter a unique date in the year.
White Rabbit will be making a range of Easter egg boxes, each handmade and boxed to make a delightful treat for each member of the family, as will chocolate artists up and down the country.
Let’s celebrate our hard workers and hand-makers and continue to add to the symbology of the ancient egg as we observe this incredibly old, but uniquely beautiful, holiday.
Ed Hawkes, White Rabbit Chocolatiers.