Bunnies, bunnies, and more bunnies! Now that spring is upon us, the production of our chocolatey friends is in full swing. The more I walk by our fancy chocolate bunnies, from Mr. Goodtime all the way down to the little placesetting guys and gals, the more I realize I know almost nothing of their origin. Why do we make gourmet chocolate bunnies and eggs to fill baskets? How did that ever become such a widespread tradition? As a kid, I took it for granted that a bunny was just what you received at Easter. I knew on Easter morning I would wake up to a colorfully boxed milk chocolate bunny, an array of gold foil-wrapped chocolate Easter eggs nestled with a few packs of new baseball cards in a pretty chocolate Easter basket. I carefully unwrapped the chocolates, savored every morsel (well, not the baseball cards), and moved on with the year. Maybe I was so preoccupied with the chocolate that I didn’t care about the bunny. Quite honestly, it could’ve been a cat, fish, or kangaroo, and I wouldn’t have cared in the very least! It was chocolate – a rare treat in my family.
So really then, what is the story behind the chocolate bunny and what does it have to do with the Easter holiday? Since ancient times the rabbit has been known as a symbol of fertility and growth. Ever heard of things “spreading like rabbits”? Over time this became associated with spring and the growth of a new season. As Christianity spread, Easter started to become more of a widespread holiday. Soon, the springtime symbols and the holiday itself became synonymous with one another. The first written record of a bunny associated with Easter was in 1500’s Germany, and the first chocolate bunny was made in the 1800’s. German settlers have since brought the tradition to America where we still practice it today.
Eggs became associated with Easter for a similar reason since they have always indicated an abundance of life and rebirth. Since Easter is celebrating Christ’s resurrection, the life in eggs makes a lot of sense. Plus, during the Catholic season of Lent, eggs are not to be consumed, therefore leaving tons of eggs for use other than eating. Traditionally, they were colored and decorated in creative ways and placed in a nest handmade by children. Today, the chocolate or flavored eggs are a loose take on those hand-decorated eggs.
So, as we delve head-first into Easter and you’re choosing from Lake Champlain Chocolates wide array of bunnies and eggs and chocolate carrots (oh my), think about how far the tradition has come. Since it’s my first spring at Lake Champlain Chocolates, it has been an absolute joy to watch our tempered chocolate transform into Easter’s famous symbols. Each of our bunnies authentically honors the Easter tradition. Every single one is handmade the old-fashioned way with dark, milk, or white chocolate by the love and care of our chocolatiers’ hands. After learning the story behind them and witnessing firsthand the time and effort put into all of our Easter chocolates, I certainly have a deeper appreciation for that little guy I used to bite into every Easter morning.