Current Events, Special Days and Historic Anniversaries Brought to Life by Teddy Bears, Pandas and Other Cuddly Creatures

HAPPY EASTER

by Elspeth

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Easter was originally a pagan festival celebrating the arrival of spring.  Today, it’s a blend of Christianity and commercialism, when Christians remember the life and resurrection of Christ, while for everyone else it’s a time for chocolate eggs, parades, decorated bonnets, fluffy chickens and cuddly bunnies.

 The egg, probably the most powerful Easter symbol of all, represents the stone rolling away from Jesus’s tomb.  This association of eggs with Easter started with the Christians in Mesopotamia who painted them red to symbolise the blood of the crucified Christ.  Members of the Eastern Orthodox Church still paint their eggs red or green to indicate new life.

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The oldest known decorated eggs are African ostrich eggs thought to be 60,000 years old, while gold and silver eggs have been excavated from the tombs of ancient Egyptians buried 5,000 years ago.  Over the years, eggs have appeared in many guises and, at one time, they were painted bright colours to represent the sunlit days of spring and then given as love tokens.  In 1307, King Edward I is said to have paid 18 pence for 450 eggs to be boiled and covered with gold leaf and then distributed amongst the royal household, a tradition which carried on into the Middle Ages when they were traditional gifts for servants in large houses. 

However, the most glorious Easter eggs of all have to be the intricately designed Fabergé eggs dating back to the early 1880s when Peter Carl Fabergé was asked by Czar Alexander III to create a special Easter gift for his wife.  The Czar was so pleased with Fabergé’s work that he commissioned him to continue the tradition each year, the only provisos being that the gift had to be egg-shaped and had to contain a tiny, precious surprise!

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In 2012, the idea of an Easter egg hunt simply being a device to occupy young children for a few hours changed forever when Fabergé used its iconic symbol of luxury to raise money for charity.  During the Big Easter Egg Hunt, an interactive event inspired by the Elephant Parade of 2010, more than 200 fibreglass eggs, each around 2½ feet in height, designed and decorated by designers and artists, were ‘hidden’ around central London.   Each giant egg held a unique code word which gave the finder a chance to win the ultimate Easter egg – the fabulous Fabergé Diamond Jubilee Egg worth over £100,000!  At the end of the forty day event, which coincided with Lent, the eggs were auctioned for Action For Children and The Elephant Family.

EASTER EGG HUNT 1Following the huge success of London’s Big Easter Egg Hunt, which not only raised an astonishing £2 million for worthwhile causes, but which also set two Guiness World Records, a similar event took place in New York this year. From 1st until 17th April, more than 260 giant egg sculptures, decorated by celebrities and globally renowned artists, architects, designers and photographers, were to be found throughout the city’s five boroughs.  Bruce Weber contributed an egg decorated with pictures he had taken of Kate Moss, while Marc Quinn’s egg was embossed with fingerprints.  The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall donated an egg that took the form of Humpty Dumpty, described by Prince Charles as “a favourite nursery rhyme character”.

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Locals and visitors were invited to join in a mass treasure hunt by downloading an app to help to reveal the locations of the eggs.  Each time they checked in at an egg, the hunters were entered into a sweepstake to win one of three extraordinary precious gemstone pendants created by Fabergé.   The eggs are now all on public display in the Rockefeller Centre until 25th April after which selected eggs will be sold at a spectacular high profile auction which will, once again, benefit the conservation organisation, Elephant Family and also Studio in a School, a programme that brings visual arts to New York City’s public schools.

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The first manufactured edible eggs were made from pastry and sugar by the Germans in the early 19th century and chocolate eggs didn’t appear till the 1870s when Fry, followed by Cadbury, made a hollow version which, a few years later, was filled with sweets.  During the 1930s, sweets were often replaced with small toys and, following the arrival of Ming at London Zoo, the favourite filling for Easter eggs in 1939 were cuddly pandas, the appealing little bear’s gentle charm and unusual black and white colouring having won the hearts of children all over the United Kingdom.  I’m pleased to say that adults were also catered for with white kid eggs containing gold enamelled panda charms.

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Today, egg-painting is still popular in Europe but, in this country, most people prefer eggs of the chocolate variety, the most popular being the Cadbury’s Crème Egg, of which we eat a staggering 400 million every year, at the rate of 70,000 per hour, generating sales of £70 million!  (It’s also estimated that we’ll have eaten 38 million hot cross buns by the time Easter is over which means each person in the UK will have eaten 0.6 of a bun!) compare the humble crème egg with the Diamond Stella Egg, made of chocolate studded with diamonds, which went on sale in 2006 for an astonishing £50,000!

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The tradition of the much-loved Easter Bunny originates in pre-Christian lore when the hare and the rabbit were regarded as the most fertile creatures in the animal kingdom.  The rabbit was first mentioned as a Christian Easter symbol in German writings in the 1500s and, in 1682, the physician George Franck von Frankenau mentioned the Easter Bunny in his bestselling work on Easter eggs, De Ovis Paschalibus.  The first edible bunnies, made of pastry and sugar, were introduced in Germany during the early 1800s and, today, there’s a variety of chocolate rabbits to suit all tastes, from Nestlé chocolate bunnies filled with Smarties to the Lindt gold bunnies which have delighted generations of children.

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Although rabbits and eggs have always been symbols of new life, the popular pairing of eggs with the Easter Bunny really only dates back to the end of the 19th Century – the result of an advertising campaign by a European sweet manufacturer which was a stroke of marketing genius well-founded in the traditions of the past. 

The Easter Bunny plays an important part in celebrations all over the world, particularly in Washington DC where he’s the most eagerly awaited guest at the annual White House Easter Egg Roll when, unlike what 20140418_74 - Copyhappens in this country where we roll ours down hills, hard-boiled coloured eggs are rolled on level ground using a serving spoon to propel them.  This tradition originally began on Capitol Hill when some children, on holiday from school, had the idea of rolling eggs on Easter Monday.  However, when certain members of Congress objected, this seemingly harmless practice was banned by law and, in 1878, the event moved to the White House where it’s now one of the most eagerly anticipated events in the capital’s busy schedule.  The White House Easter Bunny was introduced by Pat Nixon in 1969 and, although his identity was normally kept a secret, after playing the Bunny for six years, the wife of the Attorney General, Edwin Meese, became known as the ‘Meester Bunny’! 

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Another White House tradition is the Easter Egg Hunt when children search for painted wooden eggs, signed by the President and the First Lady.  Last year, an estimated 35,000 people descended on the South Lawn where there were five differently coloured eggs to hunt for – four decorated with the logo of a skipping bunny, signed by Barack and Michelle Obama and, for the first time, one ‘signed’ by Bo, America’s First Dog, whose image appeared on this very special egg.  This year’s collectable eggs, which come in four vibrant colours, are decorated with another bunny design and, if you buy a set containing one of each colour, you receive a special edition egg featuring Bo and his sister, Sunny, America’s First Dogs. 

2013-pack - CopyThis year, I’ve dedicated all four windows to the Easter season.  In one, where pink, blue and white are the predominant colours, two rather cute white teddies, one wearing bunny ears and the other her Easter bonnet with all the frills upon it, are celebrating this special time of year with several little seasonal bears.  In another, 20140418_85 - Copythere’s an incredibly appealing bear in a beautiful pink dress, matching boots and Easter bonnet plus some pastel coloured beanie bears decorated with embroidered Easter eggs.  In the third window, I’ve created an Easter Egg Hunt with lots of eggs hidden in the grass waiting for the bears to find.  You might also have spotted a bear who’s disguised as a ladybird (no pun intended!) and another who thinks he’s a chicken!  In the final window, Bao Bao, the National Zoo’s eight-month-old panda, is celebrating her very first Easter with her mom, Mei-Xiang.  Let’s hope she doesn’t follow in my dog’s pawsteps and eat any chocolate eggs as that might result in an emergency visit to the vet as it did for Holly a few years ago!  Of course, as you might have expected, the Easter Bunny pops up all over the place as Easter wouldn’t be Easter without him!

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So whether you celebrate by going to church, hunting for decorated eggs, eating chocolate ones or simply enjoying the beauty of nature, The Bears in the Window wish you all an Easter that’s full of sweet surprises!

 

 

 

 


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