You may already have eaten a coop’s worth of Easter eggs this weekend, but have you ever wondered why eggs are associated with this time of year? Uncovering the origin story of the Easter egg requires the help of an historian.
Speaking to time.com, Prof Carole Levin, director of the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program at the University of Nebraska notes that “many scholars believe that Easter had its origins as an early Anglo-Saxon festival that celebrated the goddess Eastre, and the coming of spring, in a sense a resurrection of nature after winter. Some Christian missionaries hoped that celebrating Christian holy days at the same times as pagan festivals would encourage conversion, especially if some of the symbols carried over.”
According to Prof James Daybell, associate head of research at the University of Plymouth, “within the Christian tradition of Easter, the egg has long symbolised new life, birth, purity, fertility and regeneration.”
Though painted eggs were given as gifts, the tradition of chocolate Easter eggs didn’t emerge until the early 19th century. “The first chocolate Easter eggs were manufactured in France and Germany, though these were predominantly solid rather than hollow,” writes Prof Daybell. “The first British chocolate Easter egg was produced in 1873 by JS Fry & Sons, closely followed in 1875 by John Cadbury.”