Easter is the top-selling confectionery holiday in the west, second only to Halloween. Each year witnesses the making of nearly 90 million chocolate bunnies. Statistically, 76% of people bite off the chocolate bunny ears first, while 5% bite the feet first and 4% eat the tail first. I wonder who the lucky folks were to gather data for that!
To date, chocolate bunnies and eggs remain favorite Easter treats. Red jellybeans qualify as the favorite food stuff for kids on Easter. In the mid-20th century it used to take as much as twenty-seven hours to make a marshmallow Peep. Today, the time has been reduced to six minutes. Americans buy more than 700 million Peeps – making Peeps the most popular non-chocolate Easter candy. See my post on Peeps from yesterday: Peeps!
Eggs were first associated with the idea of new life and as a foreshadowing of Christ’s sacrifice by the Jews as an integral part of the Passover Seder. Early Christians held to the symbolism, eggs a visual example of the resurrection of Christ. Decorating and coloring eggs for Easter was the custom in England during the middle ages. The household accounts of Edward I, for the year 1290, recorded an expenditure of eighteen pence for four hundred and fifty eggs to be gold-leafed and colored for Easter gifts.
The reason for painting easter eggs in bright color’s is they represent the bright sunlight of spring time. Easter’s most valuable eggs were hand crafted in the 1880s. Made by the great goldsmith Peter Carl Faberge, they were commissioned by Czar Alexander III of Russia as gifts for his wife, Czarina Maria Feodorovna. The first Faberge egg, presented in 1886, measured two and a half inches long and had a simple exterior.
The first Easter baskets given were meant to imitate a bird’s nest when eggs were placed inside. The Easter Egg Hunt is an occasion in which parents typically hide Easter eggs filled with treats for children to find. Historians have traced the tradition back to the medieval period when priests would hold egg-throwing contests. Priests would toss the eggs to choirboys, and whoever held the egg at the stroke of twelve would get to keep the egg.
Like the egg, the rabbit, or hare, has long been associated with fertility and birth. The actual Easter Bunny legend is rooted in German tradition. The legend holds that a poor woman living in Germany decorated colorful eggs for her children to find. As soon as the hidden eggs were found by the children, a large bunny was seen hopping away. This ancient legend is thought to be the root of the Easter Bunny we know and love today. It is believed that the idea of egg-laying rabbits came to America’s in the 1700s through immigrants from Germany.
Hot cross buns, made by European monks, are counted amongst the earliest Easter treats. They were given to the poor people, during the month of Lent. Pretzels were originally associated with Easter. The twists of a pretzel were thought to resemble arms crossed in prayer. Ham come to be the traditional favorite for Easter dinner because in pre-refrigeration days hogs were slaughtered in the fall and cured for six to seven months
The most famously known Easter event first took place in the year 1878. This year president Hayes and his wife Lucy officially opened the White House grounds to the children for egg rolling on the Monday after Easter. Since then this event has been held each year.
The white lily, the symbol of the resurrection, is the special Easter flower and is native to the Ryukyu Islands of southern Japan. It was first brought to England in 1819 and the United States in 1919 by a World War I soldier named Louis Houghton, who brought the bulbs to Oregon and gave them to friends and family. Today, ten growers, most located along the California-Oregon border in an area known as the “Easter Lily Capital of the World,” produce 95 percent of all bulbs grown in the world for the potted Easter lily market. They produce over 11 million bulbs annually for shipping to commercial greenhouses.