WD Fyfe

History, Trivia and Contemporary Society

Easter Trivia

Just a few Easter tidbits.  Throw them into the conversation while you’re gorging yourself on chocolate.  They’ll amaze your family and friends, and you’ll look like the smartest person in the room.

The most expensive Easter Eggs in the world were made by Faberge for the Russian royal family.  In 1885, Tsar Alexander III decided he wanted to give the tsarina something nice for Easter.  Of course, when you’re Alexander Romanov, by the Grace of God, Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russias, Tsar of Poland, Grand Duke of Finland etc. etc., you can’t just cruise on down to Walmart Saturday afternoon for some chocolate bunnies.  Alexander commissioned jeweller Peter Carl Faberge to make a special “egg” for his wife that wasn’t just a jewel-encrusted bauble.  (Apparently, she had plenty of those.)  He requested that the “egg” contain something unexpected, a kind of obscenely expensive Kinder Surprise.  Faberge created The Hen, an egg that cleverly opened up to reveal a chicken, which also opened to reveal a miniature imperial crown and a tiny ruby pendant.  Empress Maria Fedorovna was delighted, and Carl Faberge never had to worry about lunch money again.

In all, Faberge made 50 Imperial Eggs for the Romanovs.  During the Russian Revolution in 1917, most of them were confiscated by Lenin and the communists.  In the 1920s, when the Soviet Union was slipping into bankruptcy, Lenin’s successor, Stalin, sold many of the eggs abroad to obtain hard foreign currency.  Since the break-up of the Soviet Union, enormously rich guy, Victor Vekselberg, has been buying the eggs back and returning them to Mother Russia.  Incidentally, of the original 50 Faberge Eggs only 42 are accounted for, so you might want to sneak in and check great-aunt Olga’s jewellery box — just in case.

Of all the holidays in the calendar, only Hallowe’en comes with a bigger sugar shock than Easter.  Somewhere around 90 million chocolate rabbits will be consumed in North America this year, and over a billion jellybeans.  I’m not sure if these figures include the treats bought by the cheap buggers who wait ‘til next Wednesday – when the bunnies go on sale.

In keeping with the tradition of spring and renewal, in many parts of Europe and eastern North America, it’s considered back luck if you don’t wear a new article of clothing on Easter.  The old practice of buying a new Easter bonnet is part of this tradition.

The first Easter baskets were made to look like nests.

Real eggs, not the chocolate variety, contain every single nutrient essential to human survival – and a whole pile of cholesterol that’ll kill ya.

It is a well-known fact that the tastiest parts of a chocolate rabbit are the ears, and now it’s been statistically proven.  A recent survey showed that approximately 75% of us eat the bunny’s ears first, 5% eat the feet first, and another 5% the tail. (ugh!)  The other 15% of us probably do something unnatural like dip him in our coffee or chop him into bits to share.  Sharing chocolate?  What an odd idea!

Pretzels, the proverbial beer snack, started out in the medieval church where monks used flour and water (two of the ingredients allowed during Lent) to create a treat for children who had learned their prayers.  They were called brezel in Germany and pretiola in Italy and were often given to babies to suck on during the long Easter church services.  The particular folded arms of the dough are reminiscent of the folded arms of devotion.

And finally, just so the anti-Christian louts don’t show their ignorance again this year, here’s a quick-and-dirty history of how we got from Jesus and the crucifiction to Easter bunnies and chocolate eggs.  The early Christians were not as stupid as some people seem to think.  Actually, they had a very clever Sales and Marketing department.  They realized that the heathen hordes already had some pretty healthy spring festivals that celebrated the end of winter.  What they did was attach Christ’s resurrection and the renewal of the spirit to the established idea of the renewal of the earth.  From there, it was mere baby steps to preaching the gospel in terms that the local peasantry could understand.  In fact, the name “Easter” probably comes from the ancient Anglo-Saxon goddess Eastre.  She was the goddess of the dawn and fertility, and her symbols were the egg and the rabbit or hare.  The Christians just cashed in on her success and slowly squeezed her out of the picture.  By the time The Venerable Bede was writing about her in the 8th century, she was already ancient history.

Happy Easter, everybody!

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This entry was posted on April 22, 2011 by in History and tagged , , , , .

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