MUNDANE MYSTERIES: Why Are Jellybeans An “Easter Candy”?

Unlike Christmas & Thanksgiving, Easter doesn’t really have a traditional food menu. Apart from the dyed, hard-boiled eggs that kids hunt on Easter morning, the foods we most closely associate with the Christian holiday of Easter are actually…mass-produced candies, like chocolate bunnies, marshmallow Peeps, and Cadbury Eggs, all of which make sense since Easter happens in the Spring. But there’s one candy that’s considered an “Easter candy”, yet their doesn’t seem to be a obvious reason why: jellybeans. Why are jellybeans considered an Easter candy?

Jellybeans actually have their roots in a Middle Eastern dish called “Turkish Delight”, a gelatin confection that actually pre-dates the Bible’s New Testament. And that gelatin base, which comes from the collagen in animal bones & tendons, eventually came to be used to create other sweet treats like JELL-O, gummy bears, licorice…and, of course, jellybeans.

Jellybeans got their start in the late 1800s, back when candy was more closely associated with Christmas than Easter. Jellybeans first got floated as an Easter treat as a cost-saving measure: they were affordable, and, since they were shaped like tiny eggs & also came in an array of bright colors, people could replace the potentially stinky real chicken eggs in their Easter baskets with jellybeans. Plus, with Easter marking the end of the Lenten season, most folks couldn’t wait to enjoy a jellybean sugar rush. So, jellybeans quickly got adopted into the American Easter tradition while, at the same time, falling out of favor at Christmas (but it had/has plenty of other candies all to itself, anyway, so…). Jellybeans’ popularity grew steadily throughout the 1900s before really taking off in the 1970s. It was in the 60s that the Goelitz Candy Company first introduced jellybeans that were infused with flavor in both their candy coating & their jelly center. Then, in 1976, Goelitz started experimenting with more off-the-beaten-path flavors like cream soda & root beer. Oh, and that was also the year that they changed their name to Jelly Belly.

Candy may be the most popular Easter item here in the US, but that ain’t the case in a lot of other countries where Easter is still observed. Breads actually seem to be the most common theme at Easter around the world. In the UK, hot cross buns are the big holiday sweet, while Ukraine & Poland celebrate with sweet loaves called “babka”. And in Cyprus, they eat flaounes, which are dough filled with eggs, cheese, and mint.

No matter where you go, though, it seems that Easter is destined to remain delicious.

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