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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Despite the tight-fitting suits and pastel crinoline dresses, children love Easter.

There's something magical about doling out chocolate bunnies, marshmallow chicks and creme eggs for good boys and girls.

If all this seems a little too irreligious to originate from Christian traditions though, it is because almost all the icons associated with Easter stem from pagan beliefs.

As lore goes, the goddess of spring, Eostre, turned a flightless chick into a white hare that could lay colorful eggs only one day a year, the Festival of Eostre. From this story, three of the most popular holiday confections were born.

Peeps were originally developed at the Rodda Candy Co. in Pennsylvania in the 1950s. Each candy was made by hand and the process took 27 hours. When Just Born bought the company in 1953, they were able to mechanize the procedure for mass consumption and instant popularity by the next Easter.

The squishy Peeps have expanded their collection to five colors of bunnies and various notable holiday figures, but the traditional yellow Peeps are still the most popular.

They're one of my favorite candies year-round, but I like to enjoy them as cold as possible, straight out of the freezer, though I hear they do wonders in the microwave.

As for the white hare in the Eostre story, it has been interpreted in a variety of ways.

The arrival of Oschter Haws, who was second in likeability only to Santa Claus, meant gifts of sweets and colored eggs to European children.

The Germans coined the term Easter Bunny in the late 1500s, and the Pennsylvania Dutch transported the idea to America two centuries later. Sugared pastry bunnies date back to the 1800s, while molded chocolate confections caught on stateside.

Today's Easter basket isn't complete unless there's a bunny nestled cozily among the strands of plastic grass.

Colored eggs are another essential part of Easter, whether they are made of plastic and filled with candy, or authentic, dip-dyed chicken eggs.

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The most popular candy variation on the Easter egg, however, is the Cadbury Creme Egg. The London-based Cadbury Trebor Bassett has made the number one brand of filled eggs since 1971.

The eggs are created by filling chocolate half-eggs with white fondant and a dab of yellow fondant to simulate the yolk, according to the Cadbury Web site. Hershey's now holds the title to manufacture Cadbury products in America, and as a result, our health-conscious eggs are .2 ounces lighter.

With the eggs being produced only from New Year's Day to Easter, the rarity alone makes this treat a delight.

Everyone remembers the classic Cadbury Creme Egg ads with a white rabbit that clucks like a chicken, this spot unknowingly ties together all three symbols of the goddess Eostre.

There is sweet irony in the fact that the icons of one of the most important holidays on the Christian calendar has its origins in pagan beliefs.

Regardless of its beginnings, no one can resist meandering down the colorful candy-laden aisles and picking up a chick or egg to reminisce and indulge.

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