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Tag: "Easter eggs"

The History of the Easter Bunny

History of the Easter Bunny

History of the Easter Bunny

The cute white rabbit used so frequently as a symbol of Easter has its roots in the pagan fertility festivals celebrated at the time of the Spring equinox. The rabbit was actually a hare, an animal that was traditonally seen as being sacred and mystical.

The hare was often associated with moon and goddesses in the ancient world, and was the symbol of the Egyptian moon. The hare was always been portrayed with its eyes open, watching the moon.

In fact, the Egyptian word for hare is ‘un’ which means ‘open’. Hares are born with their eyes open, rabbits are born with them closed. The hare was also considered a symbol of fertility, and specifically signifying spring and rebirth.

Mad March Hares
It is probably not a coincidence that it is at this time of year that the usually shy and solitary animals suddenly become highly visible as the bucks leap and fight each other for the does, when they are collectively called ‘Mad March Hares’, hence the saying “As mad as a March hare”.

Oschter Haws
When German settlers arrived in America, they brought with them the legend of ‘Oschter Haws’, the white Easter Hare. Children behaved themselves in the lead up to Easter, believing that, if they were good, Oschter Haws would lay colourful eggs (which were the symbols of rebirth) for them in a nest the children had provided, usually in a secluded place in the home, the barn or the garden. Boys would use their caps and girls their bonnets to make the nests. The use of elaborate Easter baskets would come later as the tradition of the Easter bunny spread throughout the country. The arrival of ‘Oschter Haws’ was considered “childhood’s greatest pleasure” next to a visit from Christ-Kindel on Christmas Eve.

Traditionally German children are told that it is the Easter hare that lays all the Easter eggs. In order for the Easter hare to come to the house with the eggs, the children are encouraged to make a soup from green leaves specially for the hare. Without it, the Easter hare will not come into the garden and build the special egg nests needed. The Easter hare is believed to colour the eggs, making the dyes by lighting little bonfires and heating water with flowers and grasses. The luckiest child was the one who received an Easter hare’s egg that hatched to find a baby bird with the head of a hare. As you might expect this was very rare! If the child has been naughty it was likely that he or she would find nothing but hare droppings in the nest. Nowadays most children find the more modern form of chocolate Easter eggs they go on an egg hunt in the garden.

Hares lay eggs?
The legend that suggests the hare lays the eggs is something most people find absurd, but it is believed that this idea may stem from the fact that a bird known as a plover, which would often make a nest on the ground near to a hare’s form (which lies above the ground, unlike a rabbit’s burrow, which is below ground. If, for some reason, the hare deserted its form, it is known that the plover will hijack the form and lay its eggs in comfort, so perhaps this is how the myth came about.

Chocolate bunnies
By the 19th Century, the ‘Easter Hare’ had become the ‘Easter Rabbit’. American families would later adapt the nest tradition, using baskets, chocolate, and money. Easter itself was not widely celebrated until after the Civil War, and the arrival of the Easter Bunny in the UK happened after the 2nd World War. In Australia, they hate rabbits because when rabbits were introduced they quickly became an ecological disaster. There have been recent attempts to replace the Easter bunny with the Easter bilby, a small marsupial.

The first edible Easter bunnies, made out of pastry and sugar, were made in Germany during the early 1800s, and chocolate Easter bunnies are now nearly as popular as chocolate Easter eggs.

© Claire Burdett. Please only reproduce this article with permission, in its entirety and with a hyperlink to www.claireburdett.com. Thank you.

First published by Primary Times, 2007. Reproduced on www.funkyangel.co.uk, the ultimate lifestyle website for WAHM and Home Businesses, 2008.


History of The Easter Egg

History of the Easter Egg

Decorated Easter Eggs

From earliest times and in most cultures, the egg has signified birth and resurrection. The Egyptians buried eggs in their tombs. The Greeks placed eggs on top of graves. The Romans coined a proverb: “Omne vivum ex ovo”, which means “All life comes from an egg.”

By Medieval times, giving decorated hen, goose or duck eggs as gifts was a popular custom, and these eggs were known as ‘Pace Eggs’. In wealthy Medieval homes, the Pace Eggs would have filled a large bowl in the centre of the feast table on Easter Sunday, and were gorgeously decorated. As Madeleine Pelner Cosman says in ‘Medieval Holidays and Festivals’:

“ At their tapered ends are borders of lace, embroidery, and tiny glass jewels. Some eggs are painted with each guest’s family design: four gold lions are on one pace egg, coloured half purple and half red; three black crescents surround a wheel on another egg dyed gold and bright blue.”

In simpler homes, the tinting was achieved by boiling the eggs with certain flowers or leaves, particularly onion skins as these turned the eggs gold – the eggs were first wrapped in onionskins and then boiled, which gave the shells a golden, mottled effect. Today they are most often painted.

The name ‘Pace’ comes from Pasch, from the Hebrew word for Passover. In many European languages the name Easter comes from the word Passover, such as
Pascha in Greek and Latin,
Pasqua in Italian,
Pacques in French,
Pascua in Spanish.

In England, Pace Eggs would be eaten on Easter Sunday, as well as being used to ‘egg roll’, whether that was in straight lines or through hoops and wickets (like croquet!). Some of the eggs would be decorated especially to hand out to ‘Pace Eggers’, the performers who would come round the houses and perform a dance or a fight. Morris Dancers and Mystery Plays are part of this Easter tradition.

Pace Egging was taken seriously. For example, in the household accounts of King Edward I there is an item of ‘one shilling and sixpence for the decoration and distribution of 450 Pace-eggs.’ The Pace Eggers were until recently a common sight in Lancashire villages, where groups of fantastically dressed ‘mummers’ complete with blackened faces, wearing animal skins and festooned with ribbons and streamers, processed through the streets singing the traditional Pace-egger’s song and collecting money as a tribute. The procession usually included various characters… the Noble Youth, the Lady Gay, the Soldier Brave and the Old Toss-Pot! The Old Toss-Pot was a drunken buffoon who wore a long straw tail stuffed with pins. It was not wise to grab the Old Toss-Pot’s tail!

In Preston, the crowds still gather at Avenham Park on Easter Sunday to watch the old traditional egg-rolling contest down the grassy slopes, while at Grasmere in the Wordsworth Museum there can be seen a collection of highly decorated eggs originally made for the poet’s children.

More generally, the custom of decorating hard-boiled eggs survives throughout much of the UK, although it is eclipsed the more recent custom of giving decorated or brightly wrapped chocolate Easter eggs. Wooden and glass eggs are also sometimes exchanged, and custom that dates from the 17th century, when manufactured eggs became available to purchase at Easter as Easter gifts and presents.

Easter eggs continued to evolve through the 18th and into the 19th century, with hollow cardboard Easter eggs being filled with Easter gifts and beautifully decorated. This reached its pinnacle with the fabulous Faberge Eggs, which were made for the Czar’s of Russia by Carl Faberge, a French jeweller. Each was encrusted with jewels and cost several millions of pounds to buy today.

The Chocolate Easter Egg
In the early 1800s the first chocolate Easter egg appeared in Germany and France, and these soon spread to the rest of Europe and beyond. The first chocolate eggs were solid, as the technological production of chocolate was still very primitive, but by the turn of the 19th Century the invention of the modern chocolate making process and improved mass manufacturing methods meant that the hollow chocolate Easter egg came in to being and, by the middle of the 20th century, had become the Easter gift of choice.

© Claire Burdett. Please only reproduce this article with permission, in its entirety and with a hyperlink to www.claireburdett.com. Thank you.


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