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This is Why We Eat Chocolate Bunnies at Easter

BY: Shannon Grilli | Apr 10, 2017

Walk into any supermarket or mass merchandiser during the early spring months, and you'll be met with a wave of edible cuteness. We're talking, of course, about the Easter-candy display and its endless molded offerings, from marshmallow chicks to cream-filled eggs. But the king of the candy-coated forest is, of course, the chocolate bunny.

Indeed, it's hard to imagine an Easter basket without a hollowed-out chocolate bunny as its centerpiece. It's a tradition that's been passed down since ... well, who knows when? (Spoiler: we do.)

It All Started in Germany

German chocolate has long been considered some of the best in the world, so it's not a big surprise that the chocolate bunny has its roots in the country. However, it's not just the candy's history that begins here, but the entire concept of the Easter Bunny itself.

In pagan times, the month of April was dedicated to Eostre, the Germanic goddess of fertility. Eostre (or Ostara, as she's sometimes known), had many animal companions, including a hare—fitting since rabbits are also a common symbol of fertility. As early as the 1600s, Germans began celebrating a fictional character known as the Oster Haws, who delivered colored eggs to children and set the foundation for the Easter Bunny we know today.

If you were a German child in the 19th century, it wouldn't be uncommon for you to receive Easter candy inside a rabbit made of cardboard or fabric. Some wooden rabbits even had a removable head and a hollowed-out body where parents (I mean ... the Easter Bunny) could hide candy.

Around this time, chocolate making advanced at a rapid pace, and Germany became known as one of the best manufacturers of chocolate molds in the world. Pretty soon, German children didn't need wooden rabbits to hold their candy—they had rabbits made of chocolate.

A Hop Across the Pond

When German immigrants came to America, they naturally brought the tradition of the Easter Bunny (and Easter chocolate) with them. But when did the chocolate bunny officially become a springtime standard in the States?

It's hard to say with exact certainty. Some sources have suggested the chocolate rabbits jumped (hopped?) in popularity during WWII, when cocoa rationing made the hollow molds more popular. This, however, is untrue, since the production of chocolate bunnies (and other "novelties") was completely halted due to wartime rationing in 1942. Also, newspaper stories were already acknowledging the "growing popularity" of the chocolate rabbit in the States as early as 1902, suggesting children had already been nibbling the ears off chocolate hares before the start of the 20th century.

One fact that is well documented in the history of the chocolate bunny: in the year 1890, a Pennsylvania drugstore owner named Robert L. Strohecker famously placed a 5-foot chocolate rabbit in his shop to attract Easter shoppers. It worked so well that other shopkeepers followed suit. To this day, Strohecker is widely considered to be the "father" of the chocolate Easter Bunny as we know it.