First published in Local Reach
Many people today celebrate Easter by indulging in a lot of chocolate rather than commemorating the resurrection of Christ. Chocolate eggs are, of course, a relatively new invention but the Easter egg, as a symbol of re-birth and fertility goes back a long way.
Before Christianity eggs were painted with bright colours to celebrate Spring and it was a popular custom in the Middle Ages. In the household accounts of Edward I there was an entry in 1307 which recorded a cost of 18 pence for “450 eggs to be boiled and dyed and covered with gold leaf and distributed to the Royal household.”
In the 18th century people could buy papier-maché eggs which were then decorated and filled with a small gift.
It was not until the 19th century that a method of making chocolate eggs was devised, initially by the French and Germans and then copied by British manufacturers including John Cadbury who made the first Cadbury Easter egg in 1875. The first decorated eggs were plain shells decorated with marzipan flowers and chocolate piping.
But it was not all about chocolate.
In Russia, during the early years of the 20th century, the jeweller Carl Fabergé made highly decorated eggs for both Czar Alexander III and Czar Nicholas II. The very first was a gift from Czar Alexander to his wife. It was made of gold and white enamel with a golden yolk, inside which was a golden hen with a ruby pendant inside. This was so impressive that the Czar ordered Fabergé to make one for the Czarina every Easter and 10 were produced for her between 1885 and 1893. Alexander’s son, Nicholas, carried on the tradition ordering two to be made every year for his mother and wife. Although the design was left up to Fabergé, each egg had to have a surprise in it. One amazing egg celebrated the opening of the Trans-Siberian railway. It was made of solid silver, with a map of the train route on it. The stations were marked with precious Jewels, and inside was a gold clockwork train!
Whilst few, if any, of us can afford a Faberge egg at least we can have a chocolate one!