In the beginning there was the egg. Later came the chocolate.

A_group_of_Cadbury_Mini_EggsAlthough Easter is a Christian festival celebrating Christ’s rising, the holiday has far older pagan origins which concentrate on the arrival of Spring and rebirth.

One of the most famous symbols of Easter is the egg.

The ancient Egyptians, Persians, Phoenicians, and Hindus all believed the world began with an enormous egg. It was during the rule of these major civilizations that the egg was first used as a symbol of new life. The word Easter itself, comes to us from the Norsemen Eostur, Eastar, Ostara, and Ostar, and the pagan goddess Eostre. All of these figures were involved in the season of the growing sun and new beginning. A North African Christian tribe has had a custom of colouring eggs at Easter for many hundreds of years; possibly even preceeding the first time the term “Easter Eggs” was written down, approximately five hundred years ago.

The first chocolate Easter Eggs were developed in France and Germany in the early 19th century. Then in 1842, John Cadbury made his first chocolate eggs in England. These first eggs were solid. It wasn’t until the 1870’s that a press was successfully used to separate the cocoa butter from the bean, and a finer chocolate was created. This meant it was now possible to melt and mould chocolate into any given shape. Fry’s of Bristol made their first hollow chocolate egg in 1873. Then in 1875, the first hollow Cadbury Easter egg was created.

In the twenty-first century the making of Easter Eggs has become a year around industry, with 90 million chocolate Easter eggs being sold in the UK alone in 2013. The world’s most popular egg-shaped chocolate is the Cadbury’s Creme Egg, with1.5 million of them being made every single day!

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Dr Kathryn Bates is a graduate of archaeology and history. She has excavated across the world as an archaeologist, and tutored medieval history at Leicester University. She joined the administrative team at Oxford Open Learning twelve years ago. Alongside her distance learning work, Dr Bates is a bestselling novelist, and an itinerant creative writing tutor for primary school children.

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