Why Chocolate Bunnies and Eggs for Easter?
I was always fascinated by the history of food, especially chocolate.
As I was casting one of the hundreds of chocolate bunnies and eggs we make each year in the chocolate shop, these questions came to my mind;
- Why chocolate bunnies and eggs?
- How did this tradition start?
- Who were the first people to gift chocolate Easter treats to a loved one?
Let’s start by going back to Pagan times.
Easter falls close to the early days of Spring, or the Vernal Equinox. This has always been a time of rebirth and renewal….it was a long, dark winter, and many ancient cultures celebrated the end of the darkness.
For Pagans, the Rabbit was a symbol of fertility. The egg was regarded as the beginning of all life and thought to have magical powers.
The word Easter is thought to be derived from a German Pagan fertility Goddess named “Ostara”, who had a Hare as her companion. Each Spring, the Pagans celebrated this Goddess and her Rabbit. Eventually, the rabbit evolved into a fictional character known as “Oster Hare” (Easter Bunny), who would place coloured eggs in little nests the children made to receive them.
Of course, just like Santa Clause, it was the parents who did the actual filling! And, just like Christmas, many Pagan and Christian customs and beliefs melded together to become the modern traditions we know today.
How does chocolate fit in?
In the Christian faith, the resurrection of Jesus is remembered as His rising from the dead to bring light to the world. In the days before Easter, Lent is observed as a sign of personal sacrifice, where Christians will abstain from a favourite food or activity as a way to test their own self-discipline as Jesus did when he fasted in the desert for 40 days. Many choose to give up chocolate for Lent and then celebrate Easter Sunday with a copious supply of their beloved treat!
Decorating boiled eggs with the bright colours of Spring was practiced as far back as the Middle Ages but we didn’t see the first chocolate eggs until the late 1800s in Europe. Early “eating chocolate” was not easily moldable and it took the further development of chocolate and the invention of chocolate molds to get us closer to what we know today. At first, the egg-shaped chocolates were wrapped in colourful foils. The Industrial Revolution made chocolate more affordable, and the manufacture of chocolate molds began the early history of the confections as we know and love them today.
Examples of tin molds, designed and manufactured by Anton Reiche - Dresden Germany.
Germany became the centre of chocolate mold making, most famously in the late 1800s by the prolific mold maker Anton Reiche. He created thousands of tin mold designs for Easter, Christmas and other miscellaneous occasions. The factory was based in Dresden Germany with over 1100 employees making tin and sheet metal molds that were shipped all over Europe and the world.
Today, the original tin molds of Anton Reiche and others are highly collectible, and I am lucky enough to have a few in my own collection.
And that brings us back to today – the professional molds we use here in the shop, are made from Polycarbonates, which can withstand thousands of uses. They are much easier to paint, clean, store and maintain than their tin ancestors. They are also a lot less expensive than antique Reiche molds from the 1920s! A hinged egg or bunny mold currently sells for $150 to $200 each or more. A new polycarbonate 3D mold today is about $35.
We love painting, molding, boxing and bowing the Easter treats we make here in the shop. It is an honour to be part of your family traditions and celebrations.
Lori Eisenberger, Chocolatier