These days, Easter baskets are stuffed with some pretty inedible treasures. A recent anthropological study of Easter baskets published in Scientific American found that in the 2010s, Easter baskets are increasingly less stocked with chocolate eggs and bunnies than clothes and high-tech gadgets.
It wasn’t always this way.
Baskets of Eostre Offerings
Thousands of years ago ancient cultures would mark the arrival of spring by paying homage to various fertility gods and goddesses. One of the most popular deities to receive prayers and offerings was Eostre (as in Easter!). This Anglo-Saxon goddess was often depicted carrying a woven basket off eggs on her arm. Fittingly, as winter transitioned into spring, farmers offered her baskets of new seedlings to ensure a robust harvest.
Later, during the Middle Ages, medieval Christians celebrated the end of 40 days of Lenten fasting by feasting. Before digging into their Easter banquet, they brought basketfuls of food to church to be blessed. Common Easter feast dishes included spring hare, dyed eggs and hot-crossed buns. Rabbits and eggs were both symbols of birth and fertility dating back to pagan times.
The Birth of Easter Chocolates
It wasn’t until the 1800s that candy first became an Easter basket fixture. The emergence of Easter sweet treats coincided with innovations that allowed European candy-makers to handcraft chocolate eggs, rabbits and other molded figures, produced specifically for Easter. Beginning in the 1830s, the first chocolate molds were hand-made from tin coated metal sheets. At the time, chocolate was a solid – as opposed to smooth, liquid – substance, and difficult to work with. Hand-molding chocolate was considered a highly specialized art form.
Handmade Easter chocolates were a rare and expensive treat. Thus, it was difficult to actually fill an Easter basket with these candies. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that new technology allowed candy makers to mass-produce Easter chocolates with precision. Such progress permitted the manufacture of bunnies, chicks and eggs of every possible shape, size, color and flavor. As a result, Easter candies – and Easter baskets – became a big business. Today, after Halloween, more candies are sold, bought and devoured at Easter than during any other holiday.
Delysia’s Homage to Eostre and Easter
At Delysia, we pay homage to Eostre and Easter with our own hand-molded chocolate bunnies. Designed to please both kids and adults, these elegant figures follow in the footsteps of the earliest chocolate confectioners who rose to the sweet challenge of bringing springtime symbols to delicious life. This in spite of the knowledge that the bunnies in question would rapidly – and eagerly – be demolished.