Almost as soon as the last presents have been opened on Boxing Day the shops seems to be stocking up on Easter Eggs! Cream eggs put in an early appearance followed by mini eggs and then various chocolate bunnies, sheep and chicks until the shops are stacked floor to ceiling with delicious chocolate eggs of various shapes and sizes. But where and how did this all start?
As with other Christian festivals the celebration of Easter extends beyond the church and there are strong pagan connections. Easter always falls near to the time of the spring equinox on 21 March, when the length of the day and night are equal. Throughout history, many ancient cultures have celebrated this as a time of birth and renewal, following the darkness of the long winter.
Ostara, also known as - Oestara, Eostra, Eostre was the pagan goddess of fertility and Spring, and the Christian festival of Easter derives its name from her. The egg symbolized Eostre's wholeness and fertility - the female hormone oestrogen is named after her - and is offered at this equinox as a symbol of fertility and new life. The golden yolk represents the Sun God, its white shell is seen as the White Goddess.
The Easter Egg
The ancient Egyptians, Persians, Phoenicians, and Hindus all believed the world began with an enormous egg. Though the roots of the celebrations may be different, most cultures around the world observe spring holidays and festivals and use the egg as a symbol of new life and rebirth. Interestingly the first book to mention Easter eggs by name was written five hundred years ago.
Exchanging eggs started with dyed eggs that were shared and eaten at spring festivals in ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, Persia and China. These traditions gradually made their way to the western world where decoration became an art form and the Fabergé eggs made their royal appearance. A notation in the household accounts of Edward I of England showed an expenditure of eighteen pence for 450 eggs to be gold-leafed and coloured for Easter gifts.
The Chocolate Easter Egg
According to Hotel Chocolat today's European tradition of giving chocolate Easter eggs as gifts can be traced back to 19th century France and Germany. The first eggs were small and solid and made of a course, bitter dark chocolate. As technology improved and cocoa became more widely available, so did chocolate Easter eggs. The first mass-produced chocolate egg appeared in England in 1873 when Cadbury introduced its first Easter egg.
The Easter Bunny
The tradition of the Easter Bunny arose originally as a symbol of fertility, due to the rapid reproduction habits of the hare and rabbit!
The Easter Vanish
Another Easter tradition is ensuring you have Vanish in the cupboard in time for Easter! Finding the chocolate eggs hidden in the house and garden is great fun, so is eating them. But with kids and chocolate, you already know there's going to be trouble. Chocolate stains are a real pain and there is no disguising the rich colour of our favourite confectionary. Don't panic though, if you have Vanish Oxi Action in your household, getting chocolate stains out of clothing shouldn't be a problem and Vanish Powershot has been specially formulated to deliver unbeatable carpet stain removal.