Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter/Joyeuses Pâques

love bunnies
Joyeuses Pâques is French for Happy Easter…and as many of you sit down to your festive holiday brunch,  here’s a bit of the history of how eggs, rabbits, and dyed marshmallow peeps came to be associated with the occasion. Yes, today is when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ, but the holiday actually has roots that go much further back. Back to when the coming of Spring symbolized a sort of re-birth after a long, hard Winter.

To the ancient Egyptians and Romans, eggs were a symbol of vitality and it was customary to offer painted eggs as gifts to commemorate the changing of the seasons. The tradition was reinstated by the Christians as a way to make use of all the eggs that had been stockpiled during Lent when the eating of meat and eggs was forbidden.  Children immediately took to the challenge of finding the brightly colored eggs that had been hidden. The French explanation for how the eggs got there went like this: normally the church bells rang each day to invite the faithful to services, but during the week before Easter, the bells were silent from Thursday evening until Saturday evening. That’s because the church bells had flown to Rome to get eggs. On their return back, they would drop the eggs so that they could be found by good little girls and boys! By the eighteenth century, French children were finding eggs that had been emptied and re-filled with chocolate.
In Germany, the eggs were left by a hare or rabbit…a long time symbol of fertility and re-birth. German settlers to the United States brought this custom with them and voila…the Easter Bunny is born! Other immigrants brought with them several related customs…like burying a colored Easter egg at the foot of a vine or row of crops in the hopes that the crop yield will be quicker and greater…or believing that if an egg is buried for 100 years, the yolk will turn into a diamond!
With the arrival of the Industrial Revolution, Easter-related molds were produced and mass-marketed. The molds were both for general culinary purposes…like this rabbit-form glass mold…probably for pâté….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA…but many more were produced for making chocolate…like this wonderful egg with a man-in-the-moon motif…
…or an egg to commemorate the rooster who helped to produce all those eggs…
Chocolate is now firmly entrenched into the French customs surrounding the celebration of Easter…reportedly at least 20% of the nation’s annual sales of chocolate occurs during this time. (And that’s no small amount since 97% of the French eat chocolate at least once a week).
And of course, it’s Easter chocolate as only the French can conceive…here are some examples for your holiday enjoyment…
…as seen in the windows of Lenôtre……a bunny wearing a toque de cuisinier…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA …waving gaily as he flies in a chocolate balloon over a chocolate Paris…
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA …priced at 390 euros, one would have to be a very, very good little girl or boy to find one of these creations!
Over at the next window, one finds his friend, the rooster…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA…who is much smaller, and not quite so expensive…but the chocolate map is much smaller as well and the Eiffel Tower that he flies over is not in chocolate as it is for the flying bunny. A very strong incentive to be really, really good!
Over at Patrick Roger’s…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA …there’s a chicken with chocolate “feathers” and a white chocolate “nest” and the shells of real eggs that have been filled with chocolate.
Last year, Monsieur Roger created an amazing chocolate “vegetable patch”…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
…with cheerful Easter potatoes…
…rows of smiling carrots…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
…and several marauding hedge hogs making quick work of shelling some chocolate-filled eggs…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA …and of course, except for the egg shells…every bit of the scene…including the farm house…was in chocolate!
And to think that I used to marvel at a Cadbury egg…Joyeuses Pâques!
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