History of Easter eggs

The egg-stensive history of Easter treats

As the nation starts to munch through a mountain of chocolate eggs, we’ve been looking at the origins of this enduring tradition. Join us for a brief history lesson.

Symbol of spring

Although Easter is a Christian holiday, eggs were already a symbol of spring and new life in ancient pagan traditions. Historians have theorised that eggs were painted in bright shades to represent the vibrant colours of spring’s return after a long, dark winter.

With that in mind, perhaps our ancestors would be first in line to complain about Easter eggs hitting supermarket shelves on Boxing Day, as happened this year. Seriously, who is stockpiling them that far in advance?

Evolution of the Easter egg

Decorating hens’ eggs became widespread in the Middle Ages. As eating eggs was forbidden in the run-up to Easter, any eggs laid during Lent were saved and decorated to make them special when they could finally be enjoyed.

The early Victorians made the switch from real eggs to cardboard counterparts, often covered in satin and filled with Easter gifts and chocolates. Admittedly not as tasty as the eggs we know and love today, they looked egg-squisite. It wasn’t until 1873 that advances in chocolate production made it possible for Fry’s of Bristol to create the first hollow chocolate egg, and two decades later, Cadbury had 19 Easter lines in production.

With UK Easter egg sales on track to crack £380 million in 2020, Finder.com predicts that consumers will shell out an average of £30 each on chocolate and gifts over the Easter weekend.

From a pagan symbol of spring to a multi-million pound industry, the egg can justifiably lay claim to the title of Easter’s most iconic edible.