The History of Easter Candy Traditions

You aren’t likely to find any mention of chocolate in the shape of bunnies in the Bible, and yet, it remains one of the most revered Easter traditions. The holiday is a boon to candy companies as they see their second highest sales figures of the year (just after Halloween of course), but where does the candy basket tradition come from? The answer, as many of food history’s mysteries, is complex.

It all started with a bunny
The chocolate bunnies that traditionally comprise the centerpieces of any Easter basket worth its salt come from the tradition of the Easter Bunny, or, as it was traditionally known, the Osterhase. This German word refers to the hare that ancient pagan Germans believed to be the pet of fertility goddess Ostara. The Osterhase was known to lay eggs and was a symbol of rebirth. The influx of German immigrants to Pennsylvania in the early 18th century is thought to be how that tradition of associating a bunny with the arrival of spring gained traction in the Americas.

The advances in chocolate molding techniques in the early 20th century resulted in this Osterhase tradition being enshrined in chocolate. Consequently, chocolate bunnies became popular treats for the Easter holiday, often being sold as hollow shells. These shells make the sculptures easier to eat as well as allow for a larger item while using less chocolate. Solid chocolate bunnies are most often found as a bunny-shaped bar since anything thicker would put children at risk for chipping a tooth!

Jelly beans
The jelly bean is another treat oft associated with Easter and found in Easter baskets. The candy is most often linked to the ancient Middle Eastern treat, Turkish Delight. That candy has a firm gel consistency and is often filled with nuts or fruit. It is thought that this delicacy, combined with the hard exterior coating of Jordan Almonds are how the first jelly beans were developed. Since the candies have an egg-like shape, and eggs are a symbol of rebirth, jelly beans became firmly entrenched in Easter traditions in the 1930s.

Knowing the history of popular candies is useful for online pastry school students who wish to pursue a career in confections. There are many very successful chocolatiers all over the country who see Easter as a time to show off some of their most extravagant creations!


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