Spring is upon us and with it comes not only a sense of renewal and beautiful flowers, but sweets and treats. Beautiful, delicious, fresh and colorful, like der Erdbeerkuchen, die Himbeertorte or das Rhabarberkompott. All are just a few of the seasonal delights which are sure to bring a smile to those taste buds.
But, in my opinion, the most glorious of all of them comes foil-wrapped and with two big ears – the Schokoladenosterhase or chocolate Easter bunny. Ideally in milk chocolate. Ideally wrapped in a shiny purple foil and ideally with the word Milka written on it. Yes, the Milka Lila Schmuzelhase is my all-time favorite. No Easter is complete without it.
And even though the Milka Lila Schmuzelhase is my favorite, nowadays the chocolate Easter bunny comes in a lot of different shapes and sizes with nuts or without, in white chocolate or dark, some even come with a Kinderüberraschung or kinder surprise egg. However, the most famous of them all has to be the Lindt Osterhase. The gold-foil wrapped bunny with its red ribbon and golden bell has become an Easter icon not just in Germany but across the world. Even here in the U.S., the Swiss chocolate bunny dubbed the ‘Goldhase‘ or golden bunny, can now be purchased in many stores.
Both eggs and bunnies have long been associated with Easter and springtime. By the 17th century, the Easter bunny and eggs were entrenched in the German Easter tradition. To this day, many old churches in Germany still carry a stone carved embellishment of rabbits in groups of three, which represents the Holy Trinity. Over time, the symbol of the rabbit changed into the Osterhase or Easter bunny who magically laid eggs and even included the part where the eggs were hidden in the garden. When German immigrants came to America in the early 18th century, they brought their tradition of the Osterhase with them.
In Germany, chocolate eggs have origins dating back to the early 1700s and the mid to late 1800s for chocolate bunnies. Back then confectioners had the idea to fill egg-shaped papier-mâché boxes with chocolate drops.
Tins for chocolate bunny molds date back to 1890 in Munich, Germany. Around the same time, Pennsylvania’s Robert L. Strohecker made a 5-foot-tall chocolate rabbit that he placed as an Easter promotion in his drugstore.
Nowadays, the majority of chocolate bunnies are hollow figures or Hohlfiguren. Why? Because if they were solid, it would be extremely difficult to eat, pretty much inedible since it would be hard as a brick. When the first solid ones were made in Germany in the mid-1800s, they were not only heavy but also costly and inconvenient. The first hollow chocolate figures are said to have been invented just a short time later and today molds are widely available.
The first golden-foil wrapped Goldhase made by Lindt & Sprüngli came on the market in 1952. So, why are almost all of the chocolate bunnies wrapped in shiny and colorful foil? Because plastic and paper just don’t do. Not only does the foil protect the chocolate from exposure to air and light but also from moisture.
Many European packaging companies have a long-standing tradition of manufacturing their foil and over the years have created iconic foil-wraps for Schokoladenweihnachtsmänner, Osterhasen or chocolate Santas, Easter bunnies and other chocolate figures. The process in which the foil is industrially manufactured and rolled has been around for over 100 years.
Today, tens of millions of chocolate bunnies are sold annually worldwide. There is research online which says that chocolate Easter bunnies outsell chocolate Santas, but Easter bunnies make up only about 57 percent of the Easter chocolate figures. The rest are lambs, eggs, chicks, and chickens. And since they are hollow, they don’t have any calories, right?
So, Frohe Ostern or Happy Easter and happy chocolate bunny eating.