The Surprising History of Easter Eggs

12 Apr 2017


An Egg-citing Start

Although Easter didn’t come until much later, the practice of decorating eggs dates back to at least 60,000 BCE in Africa. Remains of decorated ostrich eggshells have been found in modern-day South Africa. Not only are these some of the world’s oldest artefacts, but they may be the earliest evidence of abstract thought. It seems our chocolate ostrich eggs are in good company!

Much later, around 5,000 years ago, ancient Egyptians viewed eggs as a symbol of rebirth, often including them in burial tombs for pharaohs and commoners alike. This association with rebirth would then continue into the early days of Easter.

Decorated ostrich eggs at the Penn Museum’s African Gallery.

The Early Days of Easter

The first true Easter eggs were created by early Christians, who dyed eggs red to symbolise the resurrection of Christ. The practice stuck, and the Church officially adopted this custom many years later in the seventeenth century.

Before dyeing eggs became an “official” part of Easter, however, they were still a part of the Church’s Easter tradition. Eggs were a forbidden food during Lent, and some historians believe people painted eggs as a way to celebrate the arrival of Easter – and the return of tasty eggs to their diets.

Chocolate Easter Eggs

An Extra Thick Easter Egg from Hotel Chocolat.

The first chocolate Easter eggs were made in mainland Europe in the 1800s. Hollow Easter eggs became a big hit, but they probably weren’t so beloved by their makers – the moulds had to be lined with paste chocolate one at a time, making for a very long work day for these early chocolatiers.

The tasty treat eventually made its way to the UK and the US, where it really took off in the early twentieth century. Ever since, eager children (and adults!) look forward to their yearly dose of delicious chocolate Easter eggs.

Looking for your own tasty treat for yourself or a friend? Hotel Chocolat has got you covered. Explore our eggs-travagent collection of luxury Easter eggs today.

What about the Easter Bunny?

The hare was a popular symbol in the medieval Church.

Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten our furry friends. Although its younger brother now spends his days running competitions for our giant ostrich eggs, the Easter Bunny originated as yet another symbol of rebirth.

Rabbits usually give birth to large litters of babies (called kittens). Over time, they came to be viewed as a symbol of new life and, along with Easter eggs, were integrated into Easter lore. In many countries, the Easter Bunny’s fame even rivals that of Father Christmas