What do the Easter Bunny, Easter baskets and many Passover Seder menus have in common?
They all share a connection to Pennsylvania businesses.
More than 3 million companies are registered with the department's Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations. Three of these companies play a big role in the spring celebrations of Easter and Passover.
But first, a little history.
In the 1700s, German immigrants settled in Lancaster County and became known as the Pennsylvania Dutch.
One of the customs they brought with them was the
Oschter Haws or
Osterhase, meaning Easter Hare. Pennsylvania Dutch children made nests and placed them under their beds. On Easter morning, well-behaved children woke to find that the Easter Hare had deposited painted eggs, along with other treats, in their nests.
Because rabbits are more common than hares in North America, over time the Easter Hare became the Easter Bunny. And the nest became an Easter basket.
Easter baskets aren't Pennsylvania's only contribution to Easter.
By the late 1800s, Easter chocolate had become a popular gift, but at the time, milk chocolate was considered a luxury item.
Recognizing a growing market, Dauphin County native Milton S. Hershey created his own milk chocolate recipe in 1894 and began mass-producing it at his new Hershey Chocolate Company. His milk chocolate candies were the first nationally marketed product of its kind.
The Hershey Company eventually expanded its product line to include chocolate bunnies, eggs and chicks, as well as other Easter-themed candies.
Today, Hershey's is one of the largest confectionery manufacturers in the world and the largest chocolate manufacturer in North America.
Just Born's Marshmallow PEEPS®
Russian immigrant Sam Born was another Pennsylvania candymaker whose products would become a staple of Easter baskets.
Born founded his company, Just Born, in Brooklyn, New York, in 1923. Nine years later, he relocated the business to Bethlehem, PA.
In 1953, Just Born acquired the Rodda Candy Company of Lancaster, original makers of the popular, 3-D marshmallow chicks called Peeps.
Rodda had manufactured Peeps by laboriously squeezing marshmallow, by hand, through pastry tubes. Production and packaging took 27 hours for one peep.
Born's son, Bob, helped to mechanize the marshmallow-forming process. As a result, production of a Peeps now takes only six minutes.
PEEPS® have become one of Just Born's most iconic candies. In 2016, fans voted PEEPS® the official first sign of spring.
Empire Kosher Poultry
Another company that started in New York and moved to Pennsylvania is a key supplier of food for many Passover Seders in the United States.
Joseph N. Katz, an Austrian immigrant, founded Empire Kosher Poultry in 1938 in Liberty, NY. In the early 1960s, the company moved to Mifflintown, PA.
Katz wanted to ensure that the Jewish population in America's suburbs and rural areas had access to kosher foods.
A food is kosher if it is prepared according to the requirements of Jewish dietary laws, collectively known as Kashrut. Kosher Passover food must meet an even stricter standard.
Consumers can confirm that Empire's products are kosher for Passover by looking for the "P" on the packaging.
Today, Empire Kosher is the largest kosher poultry producer in the United States.
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As Passover and Easter approach, these three Pennsylvania businesses can take credit for supplying some of the products most associated with both holidays.