Easter & Passover Traditions from

Creative Chocolates 

Easter and Passover Facts, Legends and Traditions
The first symbol of Easter was a chicken breaking out of its shell (Christ's resurrection).
Many pagan traditions have found their way into Christian religious observances. Rabbits are one such symbol. Rabbits symbolize the fertility of springtime. The rabbit is also the symbol of the Egyptian moon — and the moon is used to determine the date of Easter each year.
The hare (rabbit) is a very important Easter symbol in Germany, almost as important as Santa Claus is in the United States for Christmas. The hare is responsible for laying eggs and hiding them. This probably evolved from children hunting for Easter eggs and scaring away rabbits which happened to be in the area. The hare and egg provide a link between the pagan faith's welcoming of spring and Christianity's Easter celebration.
The custom of decorating eggs goes back many thousands of years. When you add a few strokes of icing to the surface of a chocolate Easter egg, you are carrying on an age-old tradition. Long before the Bible was written, the egg was a sacred object and it was ornamented as part of numerous religious and superstitious practices.
Very probably, most of our own ancestors regarded the egg as a sacred symbol. Numerous races and many religions venerated the egg. In its name were conducted a great number and variety of sacred and mystic rites.
The life hidden within the shell of the egg is mysterious and unknown. Who knows whether the creature that emerges will be good or bad? Therefore, great hopes and prayers are associated with the unborn life that is yet unseen but lies asleep within the egg.
Among ancient Egyptians, the original (or "world") egg is the joint production of the god "Geb", whose body is the earth, and the goddess "Nut", the sky. From this first egg was born the "Bennyu" - the bird of Phoenix, the sun symbol. Another ancient Egyptian religious system called the chief god "Ptah". Drawings found by archaeologists show Ptah seated on a throne, before a potter's wheel, fashioning a golden egg - the beginning of life.
In Hindu mythology, the first, or "world", egg, was described as formed in the waters of chaos before the beginning of both universe and time. Another branch of ancient Hindu belief pictured the original egg as being laid by their divinity, Hamsa.
Phoenicians believed that the first egg was formed in Mot, the original, or primeval, waters.
In the Finnish epic, "The Kalevala", their greatest god, "Ukko", formed the earth, sky, sun, moon and clouds from the broken eggs of a teal.
In keeping with almost all ancient beliefs, the Persians accepted that the world was hatched from an egg on the first day of spring. Their New Year's festival was celebrated at a time corresponding to Easter. Upon this joyous occasion they had a unique custom - they exchanged dyed eggs as good luck charms. The practice spread throughout the world. Today, children look for colored eggs in the Easter basket.
The egg had always intrigued, worried and fascinated people. For instance, in antiquity, the Romans used to break the shells of eggs that they had eaten to prevent enemies from making magic with them. It was believed that evil Romans could cast curses by remote control with discarded empty uncrushed egg shells.
For Christians, Easter is the feast of beginnings, of the emergence of life from darkness and death. It has been said that St. Augustine was the first Christian authority who associated the egg with the beginning. He compared the egg with the virtue of hope and, in particular, with the hope of eternal life; because the egg, like hope, is that which has not come to fruition. However, early Christian Chaldeans, Syrians and Greeks faithfully presented each other with crimson eggs in honor of the blood of Christ.
Slavs design beautiful eggs richly ornamented with gold or silver. The Poles and Ukrainians call their decorated eggs "Krasanki" (meaning beauties). Whereas we may use icing, these people often use beeswax for name writing purposes. When so decorated with beeswax, the eggs are called "Pysanki" (written).
Artists vie with each other to produce beautiful and original creations on the surface of egg shells in Austria. These works of religious art are then set into magnificent receptacles with tiny plants and ferns, as we do with Easter baskets and shredded "'grass".
All the Balkan and Eastern European countries employ elaborately painted symbols on their eggs, the most frequently used design being the cross.
In France, children carry eggs to their churches on Holy Saturday at their first confessions for the priests' blessings. Other children hunt for eggs in the church garden, for it is said the eggs had been dropped by the church bells that were silent from Maundy Thursday.
Although there are no records of Easter eggs as a general custom in Western Europe before the 15th century, there is a tribe in Africa that colors eggs at Easter. They are Mohammedans now, but were once Christians hundreds of years ago. It is also recorded that in the year 1307 King Edward I of England had 450 boiled eggs dyed and covered with gold leaf.
It had been suggested that the many customs associated with Easter eggs developed in Europe because of the Crusaders. They are believed to have brought the idea back with them from the East.
Thus, we see that the egg has had special meaning and has been revered by humankind for thousands of years as a symbol of birth, life and hope.
The word "Easter" is derived from Eostre or Ostara - the Anglo-Saxon goddess of the dawn. The festival in her honor was celebrated on the first day of spring. It was she who changed a bird into a rabbit, and thus this four-footed little creature joined the egg as another Easter symbol. In our Easter baskets we always include delightfully decorated eggs and rabbits. At the beginning of the 19th century, the first sugar and pastry Easter bunnies became popular in southern Germany.
Although in North America the religious significance of the egg has almost disappeared, its position has remained as one of the principal symbols of Easter. Children roll them on the White House lawn. Almost every candy, food, drug and chain store throughout the length and breadth of the country sells Easter eggs and rabbits. Usually, they are made of hollow chocolate, but may also be chocolate covered marshmallow or cream-filled nut and fruit. Many are solid chocolate.
Naturally, when the chocolate novelty is decorated with pleasingly colored icing and attractively designed special icing flowers and other sugar candy ornaments, the effect is a delight to behold.
Like Easter, Passover is celebrated in the spring. The Seder, the traditional meal celebrated in Jewish homes on the first day of Passover, includes the eating of hard-boiled eggs as a symbol of the hope and joy that things are to grow again. It is likely that Jesus' Last Supper was a Passover meal.
Easter in Latin and Greek is "Pasha"; the Hebrew translation of that word is "Pesach" — the Hebrew word for Passover. Since the egg is so closely associated with Easter, expressions like "Paste egg" or "Pasch egg" evolved — all of which are modernized versions of the Latin equivalent of the Hebrew word for Passover.
While candy and confections are not identified with the Jewish celebration of Passover the way they are with Easter, many Seders are ended with the eating of chocolate products that are "Kosher la pesach" — Kosher for Passover. No corn syrup or lecithin can be used in the preparation of this chocolate that can be either dark or light — Kosher dairy. Passover confections include chocolate bars with nuts, raisins and dried fruit. Recently, Matzo bread (an unleavened flatbread), dipped or half-dipped in chocolate, has become a popular product.
Every time you purchase, make or consume chocolate eggs and rabbits, or give Easter baskets or Passover chocolates, you are joining with your ancestors in helping to welcome the arrival of spring — and the joyous Christian and Jewish festivals of hope, rebirth and deliverance. Be proud of your glorious traditions, which link you to an ancient and honorable past.
In 1998, the National Confectioners Association estimates that nearly $900 million worth of candy will be enjoyed on Easter, making it the third highest-selling confectionery holiday — behind only Halloween and Christmas. In addition to the 13.5 billion jellybeans which will be produced during the Easter holiday, children will hunt for 50 to 60 million foil-wrapped eggs, marshmallow chicks and other personal favorites brought by the Easter Bunny.
[This information was adapted from material provided by the National Confectioners Association.]

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