There’s more to Eggs than Chocolate: the History of the Easter Egg
Whilst dodging the Easter holiday traffic and getting caught up in the consumerism of buying chocolate eggs, it is easy to forget that Easter is an important festival in the Christian calendar, although many of the customs associated with it are pagan in origin.
Nowadays the chocolate egg and Easter are synonymous with each other, but chocolate eggs are a relative newcomer to Easter traditions as Britain’s first chocolate egg wasn’t produced until 1873. This chocolate egg produced by Fry’s of Bristol was a far cry from the foil covered, milk chocolate creations of today. Early Easter eggs would have been the preserve of the of the rich, made from bitter dark chocolate and extravagantly decorated by hand with marzipan embellishments and chocolate piping, these eggs catered for the upper crust of Victorian society.
Whilst the chocolate egg may be a new-fangled tradition, the custom of exchanging eggs is an old pagan practice. The egg is traditionally a symbol of renewed life and traditionally eggs were exchanged in spring festivals. When you exchange eggs this Easter do remember that it is a powerful symbol of life and is given in the spirit of wishing fertility for the year, indeed the name Easter owes its origin to Eastre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of fertility.
Across the country egg-rolling competitions take place on Easter Sunday and these hark back to medieval traditions when, a festival of egg throwing was held in church. Historically the priest would throw a hard-boiled egg to one of the choirboys resulting in it being tossed from one choirboy to the next. The winner and keeper of the egg was the one in possession of it when the clock struck twelve, I think this sounds like much more fun than the traditional Easter sermon.
For an Easter treat with a little more meaning try filling a hen’s egg with chocolate. Children delight in the activity of egg blowing and in the concept of a chocolate egg within a real egg shell. Carefully pierce both ends of a fresh hen’s egg with a darning needle and over a bowl blow with a straw through the hole made in the narrow end of the egg. The aim is to blow the white and yolk out of the shell and sometimes giving the egg a gentle shake from time to time helps to get things moving. You need time, practice and patience with this activity, but once you have perfected the technique it gets easier. Once the egg is empty, it can be decorated using vegetable dyes or food colourings. Leave the empty, decorated egg to dry out before pouring melted chocolate through a small funnel, into the egg.
I popped over to a chocolatiers in Llandeilo called ‘Heavenly’ and I can confirm that the name is very fitting. I met with owner and chocolatier Tracey Kindred who was incredibly busy producing all sorts of different sizes and styles of egg. The variety and complexity of some of the chocolate eggs was quite staggering and they resembled works of art rather than things to eat. Laden with a few sweet treats I made a quick exit from Heavenly as I must confess I had an urge to devour copious amounts of chocolate and their cakes looked rather good too.
This year I have invested in some Easter egg moulds myself and I will be having a little go at producing some simple home-made chocolate eggs with my children. I would love to think they will be works of art like Tracey Kindred’s but I think they will end up be more works of eating. I’m hoping that these chocolate eggs turn out fun things to make and perhaps the making of eggs will become a tradition in my household every year.
If you just fancy some fun this Easter you can always resort to an egg and spoon race with eggs of the chocolate or real variety, it’s a good way to burn off all those chocolate calories and it certainly makes for fun memories.