Of Easter eggs and chocolate

Hard-boiled or made of chocolate – it’s the shape that matters!

Every year at Easter, eggs take center stage. They are dyed, painted, eaten, given away, tossed around and used for all manner of games. Over time, this custom has decoupled from the egg itself and only the shape has remained. After all, chocolate eggs are also extremely popular among both young and old. But did you know when these sweet substitutes were invented and why they originally had “crocodile skin”? It is also interesting to learn that the painting and decorating of eggs has special significance in other cultures and religions as well. Some of these traditions even extend back thousands of years.

Around the world, eggs become an “object of desire” at Easter. It doesn’t matter whether it’s just a typical, hard-boiled chicken egg or whether it has been dyed, carefully painted or otherwise decorated. Eggs are traditionally eaten, given away or used as decorations during Easter. Some decorative eggs are made of cardboard, plaster, wood or plastic and could cause a toothache if you tried to eat them. Other Easter eggs, such as the ones made of chocolate, might also damage your teeth – but only if you don’t brush them properly afterwards.

Why did we ever start decorating eggs in the first place?

The decoration of eggshells is far older than the Christian tradition of the Easter egg, as evidenced by 60,000-year-old finds of decorated ostrich eggs from southern Africa. Decorated ostrich eggs have even been found in the graves of Sumerians and ancient Egyptians. In some of these cases, the shells were decorated 5,000 years ago. We can’t be sure why these works of art were placed in graves, but a spiritual connection with the symbolism of the egg is one possibility. Not only the Egyptians but also the Persians, Greeks and Romans all decorated eggs. They were a symbol of celebrations marking the start of spring, possibly because early spring is a good laying time for hens. Dyed eggs also appear in connection with the Nowruz festival in the Middle East and Azerbaijan, particularly among Zoroastrians and Yazidis. In China, on the other hand, red eggs symbolize a new beginning and are often served to guests on a child’s first birthday.

Eggs as a Christian symbol

The situation is somewhat different when it comes to the egg as a Christian symbol in connection with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The early Christians of Mesopotamia painted their eggs red to remind them of the blood of Jesus that flowed during the crucifixion. Eggs were also dyed red in Armenia for the same reason.
But it was not long before other colors were also used to dye the eggs. In the Catholic church, meat and eggs could not be eaten due to the Lent fast from Ash Wednesday until Easter. There was a simple and, above all, practical reason for dying the eggs various colors: Because the fast lasted six weeks, the eggs could be preserved by hard-boiling them. To differentiate the older eggs from the newer ones, they would be dyed different colors. When it was time to break the fast on Easter Sunday, there would be plenty of colorful eggs to serve.

Diverse traditions

Dying Easter eggs is a popular custom all around the world: in the Christian countries in the Caucasus, Russia and the Mediterranean region as well as in Western and Eastern Europe. In the German-speaking region, colored eggs were first mentioned in the early 13th century. The word “Easter egg” appears for the first time in the 14th century with a reference to an egg paid as a form of tax. Even before this, the Catholic church had a practice of blessing eggs and Easter dishes – a tradition that is still formally celebrated today in Poland, for example, with the Easter blessing of an “Easter basket” filled with food. Another tradition also has a long history and was first mentioned at the end of the 17th century: hiding eggs for children to find. This is also the time when the Easter Bunny appeared, although he was far from the only “Easter animal” to hide eggs. Depending on the region, children were also told that the eggs were brought and hidden by the rooster, the cuckoo, the fox or the stork. Only in modern times did the bunny win out as the bringer of eggs.

Customs associated with Easter eggs

Other customs centered on the egg are very numerous. Here is a small selection of the most popular, interesting and amusing ones. Certainly, one of the most well known that is still practiced enthusiastically by many people today is egg tapping, knocking or chucking. The principle is simple: Two players knock their eggs together. Whoever’s egg remains undamaged has won and gets the other person’s egg. The best dueling techniques are passed down within the family from generation to generation, and many a family relationship has suffered from these fiercely competitive contests.
Another popular pastime is egg rolling, where the players roll their eggs down a small hill. The winner is the one whose egg remains undamaged or rolls the farthest. Easter egg catching is also lots of fun, although it requires plenty of skill: a (hard-boiled) egg is thrown a long distance, such as over a house, and must be caught undamaged. A similar custom is practiced in South Tyrol. The egg is then buried next to the house to bring good luck.

Everyone’s favorite: chocolate eggs!

The tradition of decorating eggs may be thousands of years old, but another significantly younger custom has become so popular it is hard to imagine Easter without it. Though the first egg-shaped containers were filled with sweets and sold roughly 300 years ago, the first chocolate egg came much later. It is still unclear who first had this “revolutionary” idea, but chocolate eggs appeared sometime in the early 19th century in France and Germany. It is hard to imagine, but the first chocolate eggs were not like we know them today. Unfortunately, they were not the most delicious treats, since they were made of solid dark chocolate that was grainy, bitter and hard to digest due to the fat content. Nevertheless, the first step had been taken, and the recipe continued to evolve over time as better processing methods were invented.

Hollow or filled?

In 1873, the first “chocolate eggs” were sold by J.S. Fry & Sons in Bristol, the first to have the idea of using iron molds to cast hollow eggs. Cocoa butter was mixed with cocoa powder and sugar to create a smooth paste, which could then be poured into the egg molds. To hide possible unevenness and small cracks, a crocodile-like pattern was pressed into the eggs.
Just two years later, in 1875, Cadbury came onto the scene as a direct competitor and remains one of the most well-known chocolate producers today. Cadbury chocolate eggs have been a resounding success ever since, whether hollow or filled with roasted almonds or a variety of creams.

Although precise statistics are not available, we can be sure that millions of children around the world enjoy chocolate eggs at Easter. No small portion of these is secretly consumed by their parents, as has been revealed in many surveys. For example, 81% of parents surveyed in the USA admitted that they discretely dip into the Easter baskets of their offspring. What’s left to say about that? They are simply irresistible.

Value Added Services for Our Customer's Easter Business

Whether it's about the right storage solution or reliable temperature-controlled transport of fine chocolates - cargo-partner always has the "right touch" when it comes to the various sweet treats and, thanks to numerous chocolate manufacturers as customers, also the necessary experience.

The Bulgarian subsidiary of cargo-partner was recently commissioned by a well-known chocolate manufacturer with an extensive Easter chocolate range to implement its POS (Point of Sales) solutions. As part of the already existing warehouse services, this additional request was an easy exercise for the team at the iLogistics Center in Sofia: The POS displays were quickly assembled and prepared for further delivery. As soon as an order from the customer was received in the warehouse, the displays were filled with the confectionery according to customer specifications and handed over for further distribution.