Were Easter eggs eaten in Regency times?
|Whilst Jane Austen would not have had the chocolate Easter Eggs associated with Easter today, it is possible that she may have used blown egg decorations at Easter time and she would have been familiar with the symbolic connotations of eggs and Easter. Like the Easter Bunny, eggs have been associated with rebirth and spring since Pagan times. Christians capitalised on this association by linking eggs to Christ’s resurrection as the hatching chick is a symbol of new life recalling Jesus emerging from his tomb after he was crucified.
Hens eggs were traditionally decorated for Easter using natural dyes. For example, wrapping the eggs in onion skins and boiling them gave them a mottled golden appearance.
Pace egg rolling was a popular Easter tradition in many parts of Regency Britain. The name Pace egg comes from ‘Pasch’ meaning Easter in Old English. In Lancashine, Pace eggs were customarily rolled down a hill to symbolise the stone being rolled away from Christ’s tomb. The egg rolling contest would be won by the person whose egg went the furthest.
In April 1789 the New Exeter Journal commented that ‘It is still the custom in the North of England, at this season of Easter, to present paste (or pasche) eggs to young women; they are covered with gold leaf, and stained. This is a relic of antient [an obsolete spelling of ancient] superstition, an egg being in former times considered as a type of our savoiur’s resurrection.’
Jarrin in his book The Italian Confectioner (1827) made the first egg shaped Easter confectionary. His recipes were complicated and called for making egg shaped cases with sugar, nuts and fruit wrapped around trinkets and creating a sugar egg shell case to be filled with yellow cream.