Easter Traditions: Chocolate

posted by Karen Hood
Saturday, March 19, 2011

Chocolate bunnies and eggs are as much a part of Easter as a ham dinner or Easter egg hunt. But is this chocolate fetish a modern invention, or do its roots go deeper than that?

In the ecclesiastical calendar, Easter follows immediately after the end of Lent, a time when Catholics and some Protestant denominations refrain from certain foods and festivities in honor of Jesus’s 40 days of fasting in the desert. Rich foods like eggs, milk, cheese, and most meats have traditionally been popular choices for abstaining since the early Middle Ages, and chocolate was added to the list once it was introduced to Europe by the Spanish in the 16th and 17th century. Following the enforced abstinence of Lent, many people enjoyed celebrating Easter with a return to all the delicious foods that they had been missing, and eventually this became a tradition of eating chocolate at Easter time. In addition, chocolate was seen as a luxury item for many centuries, making it a natural choice for the traditional gift-giving that occurred during many Spring festivals.

The chocolate eggs and bunnies that are so popular these days are a more recent addition to Easter lore. As we have seen in our previous discussion of Easter traditions, eggs and rabbits have strong symbolic ties to the holiday through the pagan goddess Eostre and the rabbit’s natural fertility. This made them a natural choice for shaped hard chocolate candies, which were not invented until the 1850’s. Decades later, the Industrial Revolution enabled the chocolate making process to expand into mass production, and with the higher availability of chocolate eggs and bunnies at Easter time began the establishment of it as a widespread tradition.

This concludes our series on Easter traditions. Please enjoy the following recipe from Karen Hood’s wonderful cookbook Easter Delights. It is the perfect way to enjoy the tradition of chocolate this Easter.

Chocolate-Covered Peanut Butter Eggs

Children love chocolate-covered peanut butter eggs,
so these will disappear quickly.

Ingredients:
¼ c. butter
¼ c. brown sugar, firmly packed
¾ c. powdered sugar
½ c. creamy peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 pkg. semisweet chocolate chips
2 Tbs. shortening

Directions:

  1. In 1-quart microwave-safe bowl, microwave butter and brown sugar on full power for 1 to 1½ minutes, stirring every 30 seconds or until brown sugar is melted.
  2. Stir in powdered sugar, peanut butter, and vanilla.
  3. Shape by teaspoonfuls into egg shapes; chill.
  4. In double boiler or heavy saucepan, melt chocolate chips and shortening over low heat.
  5. With wooden pick, dip each egg into chocolate mixture, coating completely.
  6. Place on wax paper-lined baking sheets.
  7. Store in refrigerator until ready to serve.

© Karen Jean Matsko Hood 2011

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