Friday 18 April 2014

Another Eggs-cuse for Chocolate

Easter is the most important Christian celebration. It commemorates the last week of Jesus’s life and celebrates his resurrection on the third day after his crucifixion, as recounted in the Bible. It falls on the first Sunday after the full moon following 21st March (the March Equinox), between March 22nd and April 25th.

Easter Sunday is celebrated in all the countries where Christianity is a state religion, or where the country has large Christian population or tradition. As Easter is always on a Sunday, many countries also have Good Friday and/or Easter Monday as a bank holiday.

Easter celebrations have also been influenced many customs welcoming spring, dating from Antiquity. Eggs, rabbits and hares were symbols representing fertility.

Easter eggs

In the Christian faith eggs symbolize resurrection, new life and renewed faith. In the IV century, the Christian Church prohibited Christians from eating eggs during Lent, the forty-day period of fasting preceding Easter. Therefore as the eggs laid during Lent had not been eaten, they were decorated and given as a gift. Nowadays, fasting is not as strictly observed as before but the tradition of giving decorated and chocolate eggs persists. In Germany, France, Sweden, Norway and many other countries, people still decorate hard boiled eggs with paint and felt pens. They even use wax in some countries like Hungary, Romania or Slovakia.

In Alsace and in certain regions of Germany, people prepare a cake in a shape of a lamb called Osterlammele or Lamala. It used to be a good way to consume the stock of eggs accumulated before Easter.

According to the Guinness World Record website, “the tallest chocolate Easter egg measured 10.39 m (34 ft 1.05 in) and had a circumference of 19.6 m (64 ft 3.65 in) at its widest point and was made by Tosca (Italy). It was measured at Le Acciaierie Shopping Centre, in Cortenuova, Italy on 16 April 2011. The chocolate Easter egg weighed 7,200 kg (15,873 lbs 4.48 oz).”

Click here to check out the egg-cellent Easter achievements listed by the Guinness World Record website.

The Hare

In some countries, and especially Germanic countries, eggs are brought by the hare or Easter bunny, le “lapin de Pâques” in French, “Osterhase” in German.

The legend of the Easter Bunny originated in Germany. The story says that a poor woman, who was unable to offer sweets to her children, decorated eggs and hid them in the garden. The children glimpsed a rabbit in the garden and thought that it had laid the eggs. As a result, each year, for Easter, children make nests and leave them in the garden in hope that the Easter bunny will fill it with eggs overnight.

Another origin of the Easter bunny comes from Saxony, where people used to honour the goddess Ēostre or Ostara. The hare is the emblematic animal of the goddess and it remains associated with Easter. Similarly, in Celtic and Scandinavian traditions, the hare was the symbol of the mother goddess.

Flying bells and fish-shaped chocolates

In Belgium, France and in The Netherlands, Easter eggs are brought by Easter bells. In the past fewer people had watches and they knew the time thanks to the church bells. Yet the bells stop ringing on Good Friday, on the day Jesus was crucified, as a sign of mourning. They start to ring again on Sunday, on Jesus’s resurrection day. The popular tradition says that bells go to Rome (explaining their silence) and come back on Easter Sunday with Easter eggs.

During Easter, the French chocolate shops are usually filled with delicious and beautiful chocolates in the shape of eggs and bunnies. Alongside these, French people can also find chocolate bells, which directly correlate with the coming back from Rome at the end of Lent, as well as small fish-shaped chocolates called friture (whitebait) because of their shape. A fish was the symbol of the first Christians.

Traditions around the world

Beside chocolate, Americans eat marshmallow peeps (marshmallow candies shaped into bunnies, chicks and other animals) and jelly beans during Easter. The Easter egg roll on the White House lawn has been a tradition since 1878. The event offers a wide range of activities and of course involves rolling a coloured hard-boiled egg with a large serving spoon, as well as many more entertainments such as music, an egg hunt, sports and crafts.

Easter is one of the most deep-rooted celebrations of Spain, backed by centuries of history and tradition. Easter week, “the Holy week” is celebrated in every city, town and village of Spain although each region of Spain has its own way of celebrating the event. For more information about the Easter week in Spain, click on Spain's official tourism portal link.

If you want to find out about Easter traditions in many other countries, I recommend these two articles : Easter Traditions from Around the World and Easter Around The World.

The Aplingo team wishes you a Happy Easter!

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