When I stepped through the door of I LOVE CHOCOLATE I became a child again; in my Easter bonnet, new dress and carrying a straw Easter basket. In the basket was a big chocolate Easter egg with and my name was printed neatly in icing. Easter is here and in my search for chocolate egg history, I asked the question,“Does anyone make Easter eggs and Bunnies – the old fashioned way?
My search for Easter egg history wowed me with information about traditions and the many people that are needed to harvest and produce chocolate. Easter will never taste the same.
Krista Byers has been making chocolates for her shop, I LOVE CHOCOLATE, in Fergus, Ontario, Canada, for 20 years. She told me that Easter is the second busiest season for her shop. She uses Belgian chocolate and her attention to high quality explains why the store was full of customers. A huge chocolate rabbit with a loaded basket stood high above all else in the shop and would be a prize for a child who won this years colouring contest. It held magic for a chocolate lover – a pure Belgian Giant Easter Rabbit. On one wall were baskets were full of filled chocolate Easter eggs, decorated with small icing ducks, reminding me of the large hollow chocolate eggs we used to love as children. http://www.ilovechocolate.ca
WHY BELGIAN CHOCOLATE?
I LOVE CHOCOLATE uses Belgian chocolate for its confections, so I researched a bit of the history of chocolate made in this country. When Belgium colonized Congo, they began shipping cocoa beans from that country. Belgium became particularly famous for their chocolates in 1912 when they began making PRALINES – chocolates filled with a creamy white filling. Belgian chocolate continues to be famous for high quality. There are thousands of chocolate makers in that country who continue to making chocolate by hand, using old traditional equipment. The various mixtures made by Belgian chocolatiers result in rich, dark, flavourful chocolate, with a distinctive taste from Swiss and German chocolate. The difference in taste is in the beans and the blending ingredients used. Belgian chocolate has become popular worldwide.
A TASTE OF EASTER EGG HISTORY
The eggshells of different birds have been adorned as a form of art long before the time of Christianity and adorned eggs have been found all over the world. The French and Germans introduced chocolate Easter eggs to Europeans in the early 1900’s, after a new mixture became available that could be poured more easily into molds. It was originally popular to mold a hollow chocolate egg and fill it with sugar covered almonds. Eggs were later decorated with marzipan and icing piped into ornate decorations. Easter eggs evolved through the years and changed in style, from ornate Victorian decoration to more whimsical designs. Now even chocolate dinosaur eggs have become trendy.
THE HISTORY AND MEANING OF EASTER SYMBOLS
There are many explanations for the symbolism of the Easter egg and rabbit. Here are a few facts that I found. Some believed the egg represented the stone that blocked the tomb of Jesus as well as the life within the egg, as new life. Easter, however, was an ancient pagan celebration of Eostre, the Anglo Saxon Goddess of Spring. Eostre befriended a hare, so rabbit symbolism existed long ago. Rabbits have traditionally been a symbol of spring and fertility. Eggs became popular fare at Easter because many years ago, they were on a list of foods that were forbidden to eat during Lent. Easter has many different animal and bird symbols in other countries. In Switzerland, a bird delivers Easter eggs rather than a rabbit. Easter, I learned is not a recent and Disney designed holiday. The roots of this celebration are ancient and meaningful. People celebrate Easter in many ways, but it remains an important holiday for many in Christian countries across the world. It is said that German immigrants brought the concept of the Easter bunny to America in the 1700’s, telling children to set out their hats and the bunny would bring them eggs on Easter morning. To learn more about the history of Easter celebrations and traditions visit the site www.history.com At the White House, Easter is celebrated with the public in THE WHITE HOUSE EASTER EGG ROLL. This party has been celebrated for 136years, and in one of the events children to roll decorated Easter eggs across the White House lawn. To learn more about this event see: www.WhiteHouse.gov/EasterEggRoll
THE WORK BEHIND CHOCOLATE MAKING
The creation of high quality Easter eggs and bunnies starts with the farmer in Africa or Central America who harvests the cocoa beans from trees. The growers and harvesters are the unsung heroes of the chocolate world. There are so many steps between picking the pods to the molding of the Easter delights that we take for granted with our “grocery shelf” mentality. The steps include: growing the cacao trees, harvesting the pods, fermenting pods, extracting and shelling the beans, roasting and grinding the nibs, (parts of the bean used to make chocolate) extracting the chocolate “liqueur,” and mixing other ingredients to make the chocolate creamy and smooth. That all happens before the chocolate is molded into shapes to decorate.
I learned so much after stepping through the doors of the I LOVE CHOCOLATE shop. My Easter bunny is Krista Byers, chocolate maker.
Every time I take a bite of chocolate at Easter, I will remember the holiday’s roots, and all the people who have worked to bring the chocolate from the ground to make my Easter special.