Posted 29th Mar 2018
Easter Eggs have dramatically changed over the years. However, it raises the question, where does the Easter Egg actually come from?
Decorated, engraved eggshells have played a part in spring rituals for over 60,000 years. Ornate ostrich eggs were originally associated with death and re-birth in early Mesopotamian, Egyptian and Cretan cultures. Representations of ostrich eggs in gold and silver were a common sight on graves of the ancient Sumerians and Egyptians as early as 5,000 years ago, which could have influenced early Christian and Islamic cultures.
Early Christians would stain eggs with red colouring to symbolise the blood of Christ, a tradition which would be officially adopted by the Catholic Church in 1610.
The Easter egg tradition could then have started merging into the celebration of the end of Lent. It was tradition to use the last of the household eggs before Lent started. This culminated with the creation of Pancake Day, marking the last consumption of eggs and dairy before the fast would start.
Throughout Lent, chickens would not stop laying, with a larger than usual store available at the end of the fast which would need using up as quickly as possible to prevent wastage. Families therefore hard-boiled their eggs to prolong their life and gave them as gifts which would again lend itself to the egg decorating tradition.
Dying Easter eggs in different colours started to become a common occurrence, with the colour achieved by boiling the egg in natural substances (including onion peel, oak or alder bark or walnut nutshell (black), beet juice (pink) etc), or using artificial colourings. A greater variety would be achieved by tying on the onion skin with different coloured woollen yarn.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, egg shaped toys came filled with sweets, and were given to children as a further celebration of Easter. Soon after this, the eggs would start to take a chocolate form and has since become a worldwide tradition, with a shift from religion to welcoming in spring.
The first chocolate Easter egg was introduced into the UK by J.S. Fry & Sons in 1873, with solid chocolate eggs already starting to appear in France and Germany in the early 19th Century. However, it was the eggs from Fry & Sons' which were the first of what we now know as Easter eggs.
The UK Easter Egg market is now worth more than £220 million, with more than 80 million eggs sold each year to sweet-toothed Brits.