Can You Imagine Easter Without Candy?
An Easter without candy is almost impossible to imagine. Competitive sibling egg hunts would reap no rewards. Baskets would probably be filled with veggies and healthy snacks. And would those hollow plastic eggs even exist? Sure, we love that the Easter Bunny sends us on a fun scavenger hunt every Easter morning, but what we love the most is receiving a big basket of all our favorite chocolates and candies covered in pastel colored wrappings! So we began to wonder where the idea of these candy-filled baskets came from and how it became such an enduring tradition. Here’s what we found out:
Baskets on Easter
The whole basket idea is actually linked to Pagan roots, dating back to the days where ancient farmers relied heavily on the Spring Equinox for the success of their crops and livestock. The Equinox symbolized the end of a long, harsh winter and that a time of renewal and rebirth were on the horizon. To celebrate this time of the season, farmers in many cultures would bring their first seedlings to temples in baskets in order to be blessed with a successful harvest the rest of the year. Eostre, the Germanic goddess of fertility, was also involved in the blessing, ensuring a bountiful crop for only those whose baskets of seedlings pleased her.
This important religious tie is also why Easter always occurs on the Sunday after the first full moon following the Spring Equinox.
What would Easter be without baskets of candy?
The use of these baskets as we know them today didn’t develop until the integration of more modern Christian symbols. Lent, to us, may mean giving up an indulgence or cutting back on a bad habit, but back in the medieval world, it was a lot more intense. Most people would completely give up eating all meat and animal products (we’re talking going strict vegan) for 40 days. Once Easter rolled around, the end of the fast was celebrated with a large feast of all the beloved foods they had sacrificed.
At one point, it was even tradition for Roman Catholic families to bring the food for these dinners to mass in large baskets, where it was then blessed by a priest.
But seriously... What about the candy?
So indulging in a large savory feast is one thing, but chowing down on Peeps Easter morning is another. So where did candy come in? Today, Easter is the second best-selling candy holiday in the US, featuring the highly-popular chocolate egg. These treats date back to early 19th century Europe as a symbol of new life and Jesus’ resurrection. The egg itself is said to represent Jesus’ emergence from the tomb, and as another forbidden food during lent, they were commonly present at all Easter feasts.
The other most popular egg-shaped candy, the jelly bean, even has origins all the way back to the Biblical-era, mimicking an ancient confection known as a Turkish Delight. While its association with Easter really only came about in the 1930’s, now over 16 million jelly beans are made in the US each spring. Fast forward to the last decade, and the well-known marshmallow sugar Peep has become the top-seller. These chicks have actually been around since the 1950’s, but not in all the flavors, colors and shapes they are today.
As for the bunny...
We can’t not mention where the whole giant bunny delivering eggs and candy-filled baskets came from (you may have noticed the Bible doesn’t exactly mention him anywhere). So rabbits, who are known to be prolific creators, are an ancient symbol of fertility and new life. We can thank German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania back in the 1700’s for transporting the tradition of an egg-laying hare into modern practice. Back in the day, children used to create nests (which have now become baskets) where this creature could lay its colored eggs throughout the night. As time went on, his deliveries expanded to include candies, chocolates and other gifts to reward well-behaved children.
So throughout a combination of harvest blessings, fertility goddesses, intense fasting and important religious beliefs, we now have the Easter traditions we know and love today. It’s hard to imagine an Easter morning without candy, and that’s probably because it’s been that way for centuries! No one should experience a candy-less holiday, so we made it easy to find all of your favorite Easter candies for this year in our themed categories! Enjoy!